Last updated on: 6/25/2008 | Author:

What Is Orthodox Judaism?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Dilip Hiro, author and journalist, in the 2003 edition of his book The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:

“Orthodox Jews are those who follow strictly traditional beliefs and practices. They believe among other things that Halacha [Jewish Law] does not change with time, and that only exceptionally well qualified authorities can interpret it. They engage in daily worship as well as participate in traditional prayers and ceremonies, study Torah, and observe dietary laws and the Sabbath… In 1998, of the 13.5 million Jews worldwide, one million were Orthodox.”


The Jewish Virtual Library, in a July 13, 2006 reference from its website, contained the following explanation:

“Orthodox Judaism is not a unified movement with a single governing body, but many different movements adhering to common principles. All of the Orthodox movements are very similar in their observance and beliefs, differing only in the details that are emphasized. They also differ in their attitudes toward modern culture and the state of Israel. They all share one key feature: a dedication to Torah, both Written and Oral.

Historically, there was no such thing as Orthodoxy; in fact, you find the particular term is used primarily in North America (elsewhere the distinction is primarily between ‘more observant’ and ‘less observant’). The specific term ‘Orthodox Judaism’ is of rather recent origin and is used more as a generic term to differentiate the movements following traditional practices from the Liberal Jewish movements.

Orthodox Judaism views itself as the continuation of the beliefs and practices of normative Judaism, as accepted by the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai and codified in successive generations in an ongoing process that continues to this day.”

July 13, 2006

Judaism 101, an online encyclopedia of Judaism, in a posting from its website (accessed July 13, 2006), offered the following description:

“Orthodoxy is actually made up of several different groups. It includes the modern Orthodox, who have largely integrated into modern society while maintaining observance of Halakhah (Jewish Law), the Chasidim, who live separately and dress distinctively (commonly, but erroneously, referred to in the media as the ‘ultra-Orthodox’), and the Yeshivish Orthodox, who are neither Chasidic nor modern.

The Orthodox movements are all very similar in belief, and the differences are difficult for anyone who is not Orthodox to understand. They all believe that G-d gave Moses the whole Torah at Mount Sinai. The ‘whole Torah’ includes both the Written Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the Oral Torah, an oral tradition interpreting and explaining the Written Torah. They believe that the Torah is true, that it has come down to us intact and unchanged. They believe that the Torah contains 613 mitzvot binding upon Jews but not upon non-Jews.

The 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) performed by the Council of Jewish Federations found that 10% of American Jews identify themselves as Orthodox, including 22% of those who belong to a synagogue.”

July 13, 2006

St. Martin’s College Department of Religion and Ethics, England, in an article posted to its website (accessed June 30, 2007) titled “Orthodox Judaism,” explained:

“Orthodox Judaism is the direct successor of early Rabbinic or Talmudical Judaism (See Talmudical Judaism), holding that the ‘Oral Torah’ particularly as it is contained in the Bavli (or Babylonian Talmud) has divine authority equal to that of the ‘Written Torah’ in the Hebrew Bible. In addition to the ancient literature of the Talmudic period, orthodoxy gives special authority to a number of mediaeval commentaries and codes of which the works of Rashi (1040-1105), Maimonides (1135-1204) and Joseph Caro’s Shulhan Arukh (1565) are the most used. Another important source of halakhic authority is the mediaeval and modern Responsa literature, that is, collections of ‘answers’ (Responsa) given to specific questions by scholars, some of whom, like Maimonides, gained a worldwide reputation during their lifetime.”

June 30, 2007