Orthodox Judaism teaches strict adherence to Jewish practice and preaches Jewish scripture as the literal word of God. Believers fall into several subdivisions within Judaism. Orthodox Judaism originated in North America to differentiate it from other more liberal movements in Judaism, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
Much of Orthodox Jewish belief centers around the importance of Moses and Abraham. Orthodox Judaism preaches that Judaism began when Abraham made a special covenant with God. Because of this covenant, Orthodox Judaism teaches that followers of Judaism should set an example for all people on earth by acting morally. Later, when Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt, he handed down the oral and written Torahs to the Jewish people as a set of laws to live one's life by. Orthodox Judaism differs from other movements in Judaism by the belief that these Torahs are the literal word of God and contain no human creativity or interpretation.
Followers of Orthodox Judaism believe in the 13 principles that cover the most important tenets of the faith. These principles include faith in the existence of God, his eternal nature and other aspects of his being, and a belief in the coming of the Messiah, who will usher in an era of peace on earth. Orthodox Judaism requires strict belief in these principles. However, while devout in their belief, followers of the Orthodox movement encourage individuals to question what God requires of them in a given situation and apply their interpretation when they encounter problems.
Within the Orthodox movement, rabbis and other followers teach strict adherence to Jewish practice. For example, the Hasidic movement requires followers to wear black clothing and cover their heads to show modesty before God. Synagogues divide services by gender, and women cannot become rabbis within the faith. The Torah teaches that the body is sacred, so tattoos are forbidden. At funerals, followers of Orthodox Judaism practice great care when dealing with the body of the deceased. Similarly, desecration of a corpse or gravestone is taboo.
Despite strict adherence to Jewish tradition, Orthodox Judaism preaches a certain degree of elasticity in daily life. The Oral Law, explaining how to practice the Torah, teaches followers to apply a process of logical reasoning, known as the Halachic process, to problems in their daily lives. This process requires an individual to reflect on the teachings of both the oral and the written Torah, and consider how God would want that follower to act in a given situation. Consequently, Orthodox Jewish followers must devote time to studying the Torahs and considering their meaning.
- Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images