Traditional and Modern Attitudes in Judaism

By Gideon

Modern religious attitudes are reflected more in the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism. In Reform Judaism the movement is concerned with up keeping with modernity. Things evolved and changed in this movement since the mid 19th century when it was founded in Germany. Reform Jews go to synagogue (called Temple), but their service is very different from the traditional Jewish service .They pray mostly in English, not in Hebrew. Since the 1970’, the Reforms ordain women as rabbis. In many Reform communities, women rabbis and cantors conduct the services. Reform services include the use of musical instruments similar to church services. In Reform and Conservative synagogues men and women sit together during the service. Conservative Judaism is the “middle ground” between Reform and Orthodox Judaism (they live by an updated version of rabbinic law, but actually pick and choose what traditional laws they observe).  Both Reform and Conservative Judaism support equal rights for women as evident in their religious attitudes.

The traditional Judaism attitude is preservation of ancient and rabbinic laws and way of life according to Halacha, which were established before the middle ages. Traditional Judaism use modern technology where it doesn’t interfere with their religious practice, such as driving on weekdays but not on Shabbat.  In traditional Judaism the prayers are in Hebrew. Woman’s voice is not allowed to be heard by men, and women do not read in the Torah. There are no traditional women rabbis, or cantors – only men. Musical instruments are not allowed since the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE. In traditional synagogues men and women sit separately during the service in designated areas separated by a partition wall, called “mechitzah”.

Reform and Conservative Jews light Shabbat candles on Shabbat evening in the synagogue at the beginning of the service, usually after sundown. In traditional Judaism, candle lighting must be done just before sundown. The traditional Jewish woman is not allowed to light candles past eighteen minutes after the formal time, it is considered “chilul Shabbat” (violation of the Shabbat) since it is forbidden to light fire on Shabbat.

Traditional orthodox women perform these three activities: separating dough for “challa”, observing “nidda” (the menstrual avoidances) and “hadlakat nerot” which is lighting Shabbat candles. Reform and Conservative women often don’t. Reform and conservative women might use a mikveh for special life cycles events such as part of their marriage preparation, but not necessarily.

In traditional Judaism, the dietary laws (Kashrut) are strictly observed, while in Reform Judaism it is usually not observed and is left for individual choice. Modern Jews pick and choose what laws they observe.

The holidays are celebrated by all streams of Judaism. Modern religious attitudes include driving to the synagogue on Shabbat and holidays, turning on and off electricity, and shopping – things that are forbidden for traditional Jews, who are dedicating their time for prayer and rest.

Orthodox Jews dress very conservative. Men wear a kippah, a tzizit, long pants, a long shirt and a long jacket. Women are not allowed to wear men’s clothing (pants). They wear dresses and skirts that go below their knees, shirts with sleeves longer than their elbows, and they usually don’t wear open toes shoes. Married women usually cut their hair very short and cover it with a wig, a hat or a scarf. Conservative and Reform Jews dress more modern, like the rest of the society around them, which allows for more individual choices.

Traditional Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen and girls (Bat Mitzvah) at the age of twelve. A girls’ Bat Mitzvah is limited to a party/dinner, active participation in the religious ceremony is reserved for boys only. Reform and Conservative Jews celebrate their Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah at the age of thirteen. Both girls and boys take active part in the religious ceremony.

Conservative and Reform Jews go through a confirmation ceremony, at the age of sixteen, on Shavuot; the teenager Reform and Conservative Jews confirm their Judaism by participating in a religious ceremony. Confirmation does not exist in traditional Judaism; a person is Jewish by birth (born to a Jewish mother), or by orthodox conversion to Judaism.  Reform Jews also accept people as Jewish when only the father is Jewish.

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