Adhering to correct or established practice.

In religious studies, traditions that focus on orthopraxy present an interesting contrast to those that focus on orthodoxy. Oddly enough, "Orthodox" Judaism is far more concerned with obedience to the letter and spirit of Jewish law (i.e., orthopraxy) than in conformity to doctrine.

Justification by faith, the keystone of the Protestant tradition, is a virtually meaningless concept to most Jews.

Deborah909 raises an interesting point about being Orthoprax or Orthodox.

  • Orthodox - Correct thoughts
  • Orthoprax - Correct actions

Which one, according to Judaism, is better?

The most obvious Jews are those who are Orthoprax - they do the correct things. These are the Jews who observe Shabbat (the Sabbath), they keep the laws of Kashrut (the dietary laws) etc.

On the other hand, Orthodox Jews believe, as I mention above, in the "Correct thoughts", which can probably best be summarised as "Torah Min HaShamayim" - the concept that the Torah comes directly from G-D (from Heaven).

So let's compare two situations.

A Jew who belongs to a Reform Synagogue will often drive to Synagogue on Shabbat - and will do this with the sanction of the Reform Rabbi. A Jew who belongs to an Orthodox Synagogue may also drive to Synagogue on Shabbat. However, the Reform Jew will park outside the synagogue, or even in its car park, whereas the Jew driving to the Orthodox synagogue will park around the corner. This - I believe - is because the Jew driving to the Orthodox synagogue may be breaking the laws, but deep down he knows it's wrong. The Reform Jew doesn't see a problem with driving on the Shabbat.

So here, we have two Jews, neither of whom are Orthoprax, but one is Orthodox - he believes in what G-D says and at least makes an effort to hide things.

Let's now look at another situation. There are many Jewish festivals which occur on weekdays, and which religious (Orthoprax) Jews won't go to work on, but will go to Synagogue instead. However, many Jews who are members of Orthodox synagogues aren't so bothered about these festivals, and may only take the time off work for the High Holydays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). On the other hand, there are some Jews who go to Reform synagogues, who do take off all the festivals. What's better?

  • The Jew who has Orthodox views (and would park around the corner from the Synagogue if he drives here), but doesn't keep much.
  • The Jew who doesn't have the Orthodox views (and believes there's no reason not to drive to synagogue on Shabbat), but still keeps other things.

In my opinion, the former is the key thing. If you don't believe in the underlying point of Judaism - that G-D is the creator and ruler of the world, what's the point in doing anything else.


Two Sheds says "Reading this, it seems to me more likely that the Jew who attends the Orthodox synagogue parks around the corner because he's afraid of what other people will think, not because he knows he's doing something wrong. He's hiding his actions from his fellow observant Jews, not from God, and evidently believes that he's not truly acting against God, or he wouldn't do it. There might be exceptions to this, but it seems more likely that he's neither orthodox nor orthoprax, but merely masquerading as both, while the Reform Jew at least has the honesty to wear his heterodoxy/heteropraxy on his sleeve.

There is certainly that aspect of it. A question is asked "What is worse - a thief who steals at night or in the day". The answer is that the thief who steals at night is worse because he is scared of what would happen if a person found out, and clearly not scared of G-D finding out (on the basis that things like darkness doesn't affect G-D!). But on the other hand, at least is shows some shame in what he is doing. In being concerned that an Orthodox Jew would see him driving, he is effectively saying "Deep down, I know that I should be like them and I am embarassed that I am not".

It's an interesting discussion either way!

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