Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi – Orthodoxy.


Q. We hear so much about Open Orthodoxy, Modern Orthodoxy and Ultra-Orthodoxy.  Who invented the term “Orthodoxy”?

A. It was Abraham Furtado, at the time of the “Sanhedrin” assembled by Napoleon in the early 19th century.

It is not a good term (Leo Jung preferred “Torah-true”).


credit: Haaretz
credit: Haaretz

Literally it means “right thinking”, but it is associated not so much with Jewish philosophy but Jewish practice.

Orthodoxy believes in God and His will but it is not measured so much in theological terms but by virtue of its commitment to the commandments of the Torah.

The different styles of Orthodoxy arise out of varying views as to how far Orthodoxy can accommodate modernity.

It is not a question of whether Orthodox Jews can use modern technology (they do) but whether one can live in two worlds, whether one can interweave Jewish principles with modern thinking or would rather withdraw from “outside” mores and retreat into a spiritual cocoon.

Modern Orthodoxy (which is my preference) believes that you can participate in the culture, civilisation and ethos of the modern age, so long as you have a sense of discrimination and know where to draw red lines.

Samson Raphael Hirsch believed that the real issue was whether a Jew judged Judaism by the standards of modernity – or modernity by the standards of Judaism.

He was alarmed by the non-Orthodoxy which gives halachah (Jewish law) “a vote but not a veto”.


Q. Why is the exodus from Egypt referred to in the Siddur just before the Amidah?  Is there any connection?

A. Jewish prayer and practice constantly refer to the exodus; it was a defining moment in Jewish experience and in the creation of Jewish identity. From it we learn two crucial lessons about prayer:

1. A lesson about prayers of petition – for when the slaves in Egypt yearned to be free, their hearts expressed themselves in prayer and God responded. Hence the memory of the exodus assures us that prayer is heard.

2. A lesson about prayers of praise – for after the people left Egypt they sang praises to God. Hence whenever we contemplate the blessings we enjoy, we should offer thanksgiving.

Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com


Check Also

Whenever I feel afraid – Rosh HaShanah

Julie Andrews made it into a famous song – the notion that whenever I feel …