• United States
4 Mar 07
Traditional, Orthodox Judaism is conservative in its traditions and practices, more than in its world view. Part of why this may seem confusing to some people is that the written Torah (or the Old Testament) is only a portion of Jewish beliefs. There is also the oral Torah, combined with it, which together we call the Talmud. What's so interesting about Judaism is that it's a religion of questioning. When a person is so encouraged to question every little thing, it's only a natural progression for the status quo to end up challenged. Just for example, in certain cases even the most Orthodox authority on Halacha (that is, Jewish law) would agree that abortion is sometimes necessary. It's such a controversial and political subject in politics today it's considered a liberal position to support the right to choose abortion under any circumstances. And yet even the most conservative branches of Judaism support the need for it to be available under certain circumstances. Even going back to the beginning of Judaism, it was a pretty radical idea way back then when Abraham first converted, to believe in only one god. It was fairly liberating for women at the time, too. In recent history, particularly since feminism has come to the forefront in society, this may be difficult to believe, but women are viewed as equals to men. A popular misconception that prevails today is of sexism within the Orthodox traditions, in part because of men and women not being allowed to worship together in the synagogue and because of the prayer men offer thanking G-d for not making them born a woman. This isn't due to any inherent sexism, though, it's more due to the idea that men and women have different responsibilities and roles in life. In many cases, some Orthodox authorities actually view a woman's role as more enlightened and more important than men's - there are fewer demands made upon them by G-d, so therefore, they're closer to some sort of spiritual ideal. (I'm not sure I agree or disagree, with that line of reasoning myself. The feminist in me says that of course women are superior, but the humanist in me says that no one's superior just different. *shrugs*) The way I've heard it explained, though, is that in the world, when something happens or is wrong or right or whatever, how you feel about something is fairly unimportant. More important is what you do about it. Which lends itself to a very liberal school of thought, no matter how traditional you are in your religious practice.