Orthodox and Reform beliefs and practices

RS AS Level Judaism

  • Created by: Isidora
  • Created on: 29-04-13 14:46

Differences in beliefs between Orthodox and Reform


  • Orthodox Jews: Torah is DDR: Moses receieved 613 mitzvot directly on Mount Sinai
  • Reform Jews: Torah is progressive revelation. Inspired by God but much more human involvement, therefore there may be some inconsistencies which are due to human error. 'Torah is as much the product of humans as of God'


  • Orthodox Jews: DDR/Moses/Sinai - flawless, no errors
  • Reform Jews: Human construction. Respected and read but not given the same authority. Observance is a matter of individual deliveration and conscience


  • Orthodox Jews: All 613 are binding (except those concerned with Temple/Sacrificial ritual/priesthood) No hierarchy - moral/ritual laws given the same status
  • Reform Jews: Ethics are given high status, universal and 'a life force for humanity' Moral laws are fully binding, whilst ritual laws are a matter of individual choice
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  • Orthodox Jews: NEVER. Society should be adapted to fit with mitzvot, not vice versa
  • Reform Jews: Changes can be made where societal changes demand it. Some issues are high profile - role of women in Rabbinate but some are practical issues - use of electricity on Shabbat. 'Change or die' attitude


  • Orthodox Jews: Regards itself as the ORIGINAL form of Judaism, maintaining a link to Abraham. Sees the faith as SOLID and UNCHANGING. Resists change. Sees its mission as to hand on the traditional faith - each generation must play its part in faithfully transmitting the faith
  • Reform Jews: CHANGE OR DIE. Relevance to 21st century is a key idea. Seeks to make the faith more ACCESSIBLE and APPEALING. Judaism as an EVOLUTIONARY FAITH. Each generation must question, re-examine and re-interpret its heritage to make it its own.
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  • Orthodox Jews: Torah/Halakah is DDR, therefore no human has the authority to question or modify God's words, they are timeless and eternal just as he is.
  • Reform Jews: A combination of God's authority and honest human assessment of how the faith can adapt to the modern age is called for.


  • Orthodox Jews: SACRED LANGUAGE/GOD'S LANGUAGE. Preserve as much as possible, bulk of synagogue service is in Hebrew as language is idiomatic - change the language and you change the meaning.
  • Reform Jews: Use the language of the country in which you reside to a great degree (some prayers/prayers are still in Hebrew but translations are offered) Embraces modernity, an expression of your identity and citizenship within the country to which you belong and it makes the service/liturgy more meaningful if it can be understood by all.
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  • Orthodox Jews: MATRILINEAL LINE is all important. Conversion is allowed but is relatively uncommon, regarded as arduous and demands considerable time and effort. Not a missionary faith, does not seek to convert Gentiles.
  • Reform Jews: Matrilineal and/or patrilineal line is important. Conversion is allowed and may be encouraged but a series of 'lessons'/discussions take place. In Reform eyes, you can be a Jew by conversion and practice as well as by birth. Reform tries to reach out to Jews married to non-Jews and welcomes their non-Jewish partners and the resulting children into the community.


  • Orthodox Jews: Education is highly valued and never disparaged, however many OJs place RELIGIOUS EDUCATION (Torah/Talmud etc) above secular education.
  • Reform Jews: Embrace secular education and encourage the use of rational thought and 'natural reason'. Biblical criticism is embraced and is seen as a catalyst to rational thought.
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  • Orthodox Jews: Based on the layout of Temple in Jerusalem. Bimah is in the centre, segregated seating - relates to separate courts in the Temple for men and women to pray. Women's upper gallery = Ezrat Nashim, separation screen = mechitzah. No musical instruments or decorations.
  • Reform Jews: Looks more like a church in that the Bimah is at the front, families sit together, no segregation and seats face the front (east). Usually have musical instruments, no 'reserved' or 'named' seating.


  • Orthodoxy insists on a GET (religious divorce bill issued by the Bet Din) and will not allow a divorcee without a Get to remarry in a synagogue.
  • Reform challenges this idea and insists that 'Agunah' (chained) women should be given their freedom. They will marry Orthodox divorcees without a Get, but there may still be remifications for their children, who some consider to be MAMZERS (bastards)
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