Orthodox Judaism is a branch of Judaism that involves strict adherence of the philosophy and customs of the torah as prescribed in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin (oral Torah) (Freundel 110). Jews practising this denomination of Judaism are referred to as “observant Jews” or ‘traditional Jews’ all of whom believe entirely in the Laws given by Moses as they were and not as an application to living in the modern times. According to a Bank, “it is estimated that 10% of Jewish populations in America practise Orthodoxy with a higher percentage of 27% in populations of Israel (22)”. However, despite the religion being against reformations and modern cultures it still has elements that are consistent with other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Muslim, Buddhism.
The first element is that it involves sacrifices which are called Korban a Hebrew term signifying ‘approach.’ The sacrifices are divided into either bloodless or blood where they have the common goals of (Molloy 357): submission to God’s will through Olah (Burnt Offerings); offering peace through Zebach sh’lamim; reconcile with God through Chatat; atonement of sins through Asham; devotion of fruits of man’s work through offering fruits and meals; and the recent sacrifice is that of offering the Red heifer to purify individuals that had contact with the dead.
Secondly the religion like all others has its own rites where they pray daily three times, constantly praising God through compulsory blessings. Furthermore, all males during worshiping must cover their heads while also wearing fringes on their undergarments and phylacteries at morning services; females perform a customary bath called Mikvah after their monthly periods; and descendants of a certain tribe of priests still bless the congregation during festival services (Cohn-Sherbok 58).
Thirdly, the religion has beliefs that are common to it but make it different from all others. There is a belief that God is understood and his will clarified through the Torah. Furthermore, when prophets and temple sacraments are out of reach, Talmudic texts are the closest in connecting with God. They also believed that Rabbis are genuine heirs to revelation of Torah to Moses including the oral Torah handed down generations (Molloy 362). Other beliefs include: life after death; association of suffering with sin; and the strict study of the Torah and its commandments to avoid sin and temptations.
Fourthly, it shares ethical codes where the most sacred constituents are the Rabbis having excelled in learning the Torah. The religion does not recognise any human ethical systems but rather the halakha for moral laws (Freundel 113). Therefore, the ethical systems that define an orthodox Jew are the strict devotion of Talmudic laws. It is also against other theological denominations and avoids non-orthodox Jews terming them as heretics. Furthermore, gender roles are strict and well defined according to Talmudic laws. Women are limited in roles being expected to concentrate of rearing children and home activities.
Fifthly, it offers explanations of ordinary and paranormal phenomena. These explanations are important in the sense that they highlight the reason for the existence of certain phenomena. For instance, in the story of Noah and the Ark, the Rainbow signifies a treaty with God that he would never destroy the world by water (Freundel, 115). Furthermore, “the Sabbath is kept holy because it is seen as the day that God rested after creating the world (Freundel 116)”.
Sixthly, there is spirituality where they believe that God put in humans both evil and good impulses that are in constant war with each other. Therefore it is stipulated that in order for good to prevail in an individual there must be strict adherence to Torah laws. Furthermore, there is also the association of suffering with sin where if one is physically suffering, then it was clear he had sinned and offerings had to be done to clean them (Bank 45).
Seventhly, it has dealt with purposes of existence where the main purpose of humanity is not to fulfil personal happiness and perfection but rather to serve God through obeying his will (Cohn-Sherbok 51). Serving God is seen as an act of devotion where the Jewish nation’s sole purpose is to be happy by obeying God. Even when they were persecuted they fulfilled this mission by remained loyal to God and the Torah.
The eighth element is where it provides for socialization through two institutions that are the synagogue (Shul) and Torah study house (Yeshiva). Men and women are divided in their duties of serving God but all in all they help each other. Furthermore, in celebrating festivities like the Sabbath they do not labour or engage in commerce signifying that they have more time to socialise and to serve God (Cohn-Sherbok 67).
The ninth element is that Judaism provides acceptable ways to experience and express emotions. For instance after burying of a close relative, the deceased were prohibited from cooking for themselves (Bank 54). This action was a way through which they would effectively mourn for their deceased. Another way of expressing emotions is when a person was near death, the entire family gathered around to honour and pay respect for the last time.
The last element is that Orthodox Judaism has myths which may be deemed to be true since they teach about positive human character (Molloy 387). A myth that was used by Persian Jews is that when an extremist Muslim leader declared that all Jews in a certain part of Persia be killed (Freundel 167)). They were to be killed because he believed that Jews took blood of Muslim children during Passover. Through a complex logical argument a Jew proves that the Muslim leader is lying in the decree hence peace once again ensued in Persia. This was a myth that showed that intelligence and good reasoning should be used to defeat ignorance.
Bank, Richard. 101 things everyone should know about Judaism: Beliefs, Practices, Customs, and Traditions. Littlefield Street: Adams Media, 2005. Print. 21-85
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. Judaism Today. London: Continuum Publishers, 2010. Print. 57-63
Freundel, Barry. Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response to Modernity. New Jersey: KTAV Publishing House, 2004. Print. : 110-178
Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the world’s religions: tradition, challenge, and change (2nd ed.). New York: Mayfield Pub, 1998. Print. Chapter 8