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Orthodox Judaism 101

A Primer for Non-Jewish Teachers in Orthodox Day Schools

Gil Perl

on 21 August 2017

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Transcript of Orthodox Judaism 101

14 Million
Belief that the 5 books of Moses were given at Sinai with accompanying explanations and expositions
Passed down orally for 1500 years
First recorded in the
in about 200 C.E.
Jewish Academies in Babylonia interpreted, elucidated, and expanded upon Mishnah until about 600 C.E.
Compiled and edited records of deliberations recorded in
Mishnah and Gemara together form the
Talmud along with centuries of commentary and codification known as
Torah She-Ba’al Peh
, or the Oral Torah.
Believe that the corpus of laws articulated in the Written Torah as understood and codified through the Oral Torah, as well as those made by sanctioned courts of Jewish Law in subsequent generations, constitute a binding legal system
Low intermarriage rate
High observance rate
Tend to live in dense tight-knit communities
Tend to educate their children in private Orthodox day schools
Smallest of major denominations
Fastest growing of all denomination
Believe that laws can be interpreted and applied – often creatively – but cannot be changed without a duly constituted High Court
High Court has not functioned since the 1st century C.E.
Lower rates of observance amongst laity
School system: Solomon Schechter
Youth organizations, camps
Higher rates of intermarriage
2nd in size but rapidly dwindling
Numbers 15:38: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, that they shall make themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put on the corner fringe a blue (tekhelet) thread."
Deuteronomy 22:12, "You shall make yourself twisted threads, on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself."
R. Huna son of R. Joshua would not walk four cubits bareheaded, saying: The Shechinah [Divine Presence] is above my head. -Talmud Kiddushin 31a
Modesty in Dress
Modesty in Behavior
Skirts to the knee
Sleeves to the elbow
Necklines no lower than the collarbone
Married Women: Covered Hair
Hats / Scarves
Wigs / Falls = Sheitels
Men and women do not touch members of the opposite gender other than their spouses
Exceptions made to prevent embarrassment
Men generally do not listen to women sing
e.g., clothing, housing, speech, diet, marriage, divorce, charity, torts, holidays, prayer, etc.
Morning: Shacharit
Afternoon: Mincha
Night: Ma'ariv
Begins with sunset on Friday afternoon
Ends with nightfall on Saturday night
All “creative” work is prohibited
No electricity
No cars
No writing
Time for family, friends, relaxing, reading, etc.
Synagogue Service on Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon
Festive meals on Friday night and Saturday lunch
The Jewish New Year
No “work” (like on Shabbat)
Blow the Shofar
Dip apples in honey: “Have a sweet New Year”
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement
No “work” (like on Shabbat)
25 hour fast for men over the age of 13 and women over the age of 12
Very long synagogue service takes up most of the day
No “work” (like on Shabbat)
8 days: 2 days of “real” holiday, followed by 4 days of “quasi” holiday (chol ha-mo’ed), followed by 2 final days of “real holiday
Shake a lulav and etrog
Eat outside in a Sukkah
Dress up in costumes
Read the megillah
Give food packages: shalach manot
“work” is permitted
8 days
“work” is not permitted on first 2 and last 2 days
First two nights marked by a ritual meal called the “Seder”
2 holiday days, 4 “quasi” holiday days, 2 holidays
Don’t eat or own that contains flour and water which has risen
Eat Matzah
8 festive days
Light menorah
“work” is permitted
2.2 Billion
1.6 Billion
1 Billion
Chinese Traditional
394 Million
376 Million
Major Religions of the World
These laws govern all aspects of...
Only the animals listed in the Bible
only if slaughtered the right way
Can't mix dairy and meat
even trace amounts
even utensils
plural = mitzvot
(mitzvot = mitzvos)
=t in Spanish / North African / Israeli pronunciation
=s in European pronunciation
Deed over creed
Torah Scroll
Beis Medrash or Beit Midrash
Emphasis on spiritual / emotional side of Judaism
Emphasis on cognitive / intellectual side of Judaism
On August 1, 2012 in Giants Stadium in New Jersey, 100,000 Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate the completion of studying the entire Talmud, one page a day, for 7 years.
Strive to create a more insular environment in which to live
Tend toward more fundamentalist religious positions
Tend to have lower regard for the State of Israel due to the secular nature of its government
Uniformly high levels of observance across the community
High regard accorded to Rabbinic authority in all areas of life
Allow for more active participation in secular culture and society
Less expansive view of Rabbinic authority
More expanded role for women in Jewish text study
More outwardly supportive of the State of Israel
Varied levels of observance across the community
(Not "good deed"!)
Judaism has a (somewhat disputed) set of normative beliefs, but they play a far less central role in religious life than Christian beliefs do in most Christian denominations.
only the Old Testament
primacy given to the 5 Books of Moses
Began in Early 19th Century Germany as an Enlightened alternative to traditional Judaism
Intended to provide more meaning in a post revolutionary Western world
Hoped it would become a catalyst for social acceptance and legal emancipation
Rejects binding nature of Jewish Law
View Written and Oral Torah as a repository of Jewish values, history, and heritage, NOT law
Emphasize social action: tikkun olam
Began as a response to Reform Judaism in 19th century Germany
Most believe in the legal nature of the Written and Oral Torah, but allow for greater flexibility in changing, adapting, or repealing its laws than does Orthodoxy
E.g., less restrictive Sabbath, less restrictive dietary standards, egalitarian prayer service, female clergy
Gives strong credence to the collective will of the laity as opposed to rabbinic enactment
...Daily Life
Ultra Orthodox
a.k.a., Haredi
Modern Orthodox
In America
According to the recent Pew Study:
20% of American Jews consider Judaism to be their ethnicity but not their religion
30% of American Jews did not identify with any particular denomination
"And you shall bind them as a sign on your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes"
(Deuteronomy 6:8)
March - April
April- May
May -June
September - October
Rosh Hashanah
The “Yoms:” Days of Commemoration
Preceded by the Sefira / Omer
No shaving, live music
Commemorates giving of the Torah
2 days
No “work”
Yom Ha-Shoah: Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yom Ha-Zikaron: Memorial Day for Israeli Soldiers
Yom Ha-Atzma’ut: Israeli Independence Day
Yom Yerushalayim: Jerusalem Day
Shiva Assar Bi'Tammuz
Fast commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans which led to the destruction of the 2nd Temple
begins the period of mourning known as the Three Weeks
Tisha Bi'Av
Fast commemorating the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem
Day of mourning for all other Jewish tragedies
Considered the saddest day of the Jewish year
Largest denomination
Recognize patrilineal descent
Highest intermarriage rate
Recent trend toward greater traditionalism
By Gil Perl
The Jewish Year
A physical boundary within which Orthodox Jews are allowed to carry on the Sabbath
Results in Orthodox Jews creating densly populated neighborhoods
Full transcript