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Judaism / Orientations /
Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism:
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In prayer in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: United Methodist News Service.

Orthodox Judaism:
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Photo: Funkdooby.

Orthodox Judaism: Samson Raphael Hirsch.
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Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Orientation in Judaism that is strictly based upon a traditional understanding of their religion. As they see it, all values and regulations of Judaism are just as valid in modern times, as they ever have been (see article on the term 'Orthodox').
Orthodox is not so much a protest against modern orientations in Judaism as it is a strict continuation of traditional Judaism.
As the Orthodox see it, only well educated theologians can interpret the scriptures. Hence there is little room for the modern interpretations that often have come from secular or secular-inspired authorities, like what is the case for Reform Judaism.
The Orthodox believe that the content of both the Written (Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament) and Oral Law (codified in the Mishnah and interpreted in the Talmud) are eternal and cannot be changed or omitted.
The Orthodox practice their religion daily; study the Torah; follow the dietary injunctions; respect all aspects of the celebration of the Sabbath.
Still there has some been changes inside Orthodox Judaism, as with Samson Raphael Hirsch in the 19th century.
In their synagogues there is a clear division between men and women, and there are no sorts of music during the communal service.
The Orthodox have been very active in Israeli politics, and they even have their own party, the Shas (Shomrei Torah Sephardim), which won 17 of the 120 seats in Knesset in 1999.

19th century: The German thinker Samson Raphael Hirsch introduced modifications to Orthodox Judaism, by allowing modern dress, vernacular language in the ceremonies and more openness towards the modern society.
Early 20th century: Orthodox leaders oppose the ideas and work of the Zionists for a Jewish state in Palestine. This was mainly because they were afraid that the secular orientation of the Zionists would reduce the importance of Judaism in the future Jewish state.
1948: The state of Israel is formed, and Orthodox politicians manage to make their orientation the official state sanctioned form of Judaism.

By Tore Kjeilen