Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Modern Orthodox Judaism
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Modern Orthodox Judaism

Modern Orthodox Judaism is a philosophy that attempts to adapt Orthodox Judaism and interaction with the surrounding gentile, modern world. Modern Orthodoxy stresses that if guided by Jewish values, this interaction is in fact desirable and intellectually profitable.

Modern Orthodox Jews believe that Jews should hold fast to the traditional Jewish principles of faith, and should live by traditional Jewish laws and customs. They are more flexible on these points than Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, but more rigid on these points than any of the admittedly non-Orthodox branches of Judaism.

The movement can trace its roots to the works of Rabbis Azriel Hildesheimer (1820-1899) and Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888). Rabbi Hirsch developed the motto of Torah im Derech Eretz, which translated literally from the Hebrew would mean "Torah with the way of the world". This phrase means that one should not only accept as necessary, but hold to be positive the integration of traditional Judaism with secular education. At that time Hirsch's definition of secular education included not only the basic academic topics and the sciences, but also (German) literature, philosophy and culture.

Table of contents
1 Modest reforms within Jewish practice
2 Modern forms of textual criticism
3 Imporant figures
4 Modern Orthodox advocacy groups
5 Criticism of Modern Orthodoxy

Modest reforms within Jewish practice

In early 1800s Europe, all of Judaism that differed from the strictest forms present at the time was called "Reform". Having a sermon in the vernacular language, such as German or English was "Reform". Having the bima (where the Torah is read from) in the front of the synagogue instead of near the center was a "Reform". Zionism as a political movement was considered outside of all religious Jewish practices, being rejected even by "Reform". Having ordered services with a choir was reform. All of these reforms eventually became accepted as valid within Modern Orthodoxy.

Modern forms of textual criticism

Modern Orthodox Jews may acknowledge insights provided by some tools of modern textual criticism into Judaism's sacred works and rabbinic literature. However, it also maintains that the Torah is of divine origin, and has been transmitted with almost perfect fidelity from the time of Moses until today. Modern Orthodox Jews often study academic biblical criticism but rely on traditional authorities for normative interpretation of the Torah. The documentary hypothesis is only of academic interest for observance.

Modern Orthodoxy is ambivalent, at best, about the use of academic criticism for others books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament) because if one allows these techniques to be used here, one might then be tempted to eventually look at the Torah in this light as well. Orthodox Judaism typically rejects any form of distinction between the books of the Tanakh.

Imporant figures

Many Orthodox Jews find the intellectual engagement with the modern world as a virtue. Examples of Orthodox rabbis who promote this worldview include:

Modern Orthodox advocacy groups

There are a few organizations dedicated to furthering Modern Orthodoxy as a religious trend:

Criticism of Modern Orthodoxy

Modern Orthodox Rabbis have been criticised for attempting to adapt Judaism to the world. It is often compared to the beginnings of Reform Judaism in Germany.

See also: Orthodox Judaism, Haredi Judaism, Judaism