The Messianic Way


Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Judaism

Two Contrary Understandings of Judaism

For American non-Orthodox Jews, who are the vast majority in the United States (the number of American Jews who identify with Orthodoxy at a maximum is 10 percent, whereas something like 75 percent identify with the various non-Orthodox movements) see Judaism from an American religious perspective that has been shaped by the experience Protestant as a matter of personal spirituality and belief first and foremost, which means that Jews must begin by personally accepting the fundamental beliefs and traditions of Judaism in some way but then are free to apply them operationally in ways that they find meaningful and satisfying. True, Conservative Judaism accepts the existence of the edifice of Torah and halakhah but understands Torah more as a constitution than as a detailed code, a constitution which can and must be reinterpreted in every age according to its spirit and not merely according to the plain meaning of the text or something close to it.

Reform Judaism formally does not even accept that. For it, halakhah is not binding but is merely one of the sources of Jewish religious tradition to which attention should be paid. True, Reform Jews have been moving back to traditional observances for some 80 years now and some even are calling for observance of traditions such as the laws of family purity whose observance Reform Rabbi Richard Levy, president of the CCAR, the Reform rabbinical organization, has recently suggested (“The Holy Makes Us Whole”) should be considered by Reform Jews, that would surprise and gratify the most Orthodox. But Liberal Judaism makes these issues matters of personal choice and also is prepared to allow Reform rabbis to personally choose to officiate at mixed marriages although the Reform movement as a movement has just reconfirmed its long-standing form rejection of mixed marriage.

These two approaches to Judaism or religion in general not only are fundamentally opposed in their theory but have in recent decades been driven further apart in reality by the attempt of the Orthodox right to advocate even greater halakhic stringency than had been excepted in Orthodox ranks in the immediate past (or perhaps ever) and the greater emphasis on freedom of choice among the American non-Orthodox in their effort to adjust to and compete in the American religious marketplace.

Many times I hear the term ‘Judaism’ and ‘Jewish’ used in singular statements like ‘Jews don’t….or Judaism is….’ And then the orthodox perspective is touted. Messianic Jews are seemingly guilty of doing the same things. By using the orthodox rule to bind all things under. If the Messianic Gentile has an unbalanced focus on ‘Torah’, then the Messianic Jew has equally applied an unbalanced focus on being ‘orthodox’ in Jewish expression.

The misnomer I see is that Judaism IS orthodox in nature. Or by default. This proves ignorance to the age old divisions between the orthodox and the non-orthodox, as detailed in this article by the Jewish Center for Public Affairs. Some things I noted in the above paragraphs are; American non-orthodox Jews, …are the vast majority in the United States, and the number of American ‘orthodox’ Jews are at a maximum of 10 percent of American Jews. And that Judaism can and must be reinterpreted in every age according to it’s spirit…. As I’ve always understood,halakhah is evolving. It evolves. It is not a static rule that has been handed down like the Torah, it’s formed within each generations community of Jewish believers.

My point here is, are you all aware of non-orthodox Judaism? And if not, why? Take time to read this good article on the history of this tension. I believe it is a mirror image of the issue of acceptance of Messianic’s as well. I mean, if the Reform can include gay marriage, why can’t Messianic Judaism be included here? I mean, the same darn arguments have been going on long before American Messianic Judaism formed.

I guess, if the Messianic Jews want to be included within the framework here, as orthodox, why isn’t the issue of ‘secular’ Messianics, or Messianic Gentiles be addressed as well. I would imagine it’s because the orthodox want to get their foot in the door first, like the conservo/reformists did for the secular Jews.


About Shimshon

Humility is the beginning of ones relationship with God, or the reminder of it's existence...... LOVE ~ Life's Only Valuable Emotion

One comment on “Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Judaism

  1. cfryalls
    October 22, 2014

    HI David, I’m sort of back. Back home but not in control of my time.

    Reading this post a thought comes to mind as an answer to your question; Jew would easily accept a homosexual Jewish practicing person over a Messianic, even a Torah observant one, because of the Jesus factor. I think that they still are offended by the Gospel, and by the reality of who Yeshua really is. To accept a Messianic, they would have to also allow that perhaps, Yeshua was who He said He was and who we say He is and that sort of puts a death stroke to all forms of Judaism. It should not be that way but I believe that it is. It is just as hard for a Messianic to find a place in Judaism as it was in 90 CE.


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This entry was posted on October 15, 2014 by in Shimshon's Blog, The Messianic Way Blog and tagged , , , , .
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