Essay on The And The Reform Movement

Essay on The And The Reform Movement

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Within any society, there are particular individuals who are responsible for maintaining, teaching, amending, and enforcing all laws. In Jewish societies, the rabbis who once served as the judges and interpreters of the Halakhah, fulfilled this role. In an age in which few individuals obtained a formal education, this choice of well-educated rabbis to be these powerful and influential leaders within the Jewish society was logical. Thus, the rabbis used their authoritative power to freely interpret the Halakhah (Jewish Law) for the common Jews. However, this rabbinic role did not last throughout Jewish history. Instead, the 17th century Hasidism and 19th century Reform Movement changed the rabbis’ duties. Both Hasidism and the Reform Movement emphasized the importance of an individual Jew’s observance of Jewish laws as prescribed by previous rabbis and other prominent Jewish figures, such as Moses. Therefore, a rabbi’s interpretation of the Halakhah was no longer necessary. Instead, both Hasidism and the Reform Movement altered the role of Jewish leaders to be a spiritual guide and teacher for common Jews. While the emergence of Hasidism and the Reform Movement agreed upon the new roles for the Jewish leaders, their agendas differed greatly.
The “Lurianic theology of the sparks” is the central dogma in Hasidism which Professor Henning interpreted as “the belief that when Jews perform mitzvahs (commandments, and also following Jewish law), they are reuniting divine sparks of the universe that will bring about the “messianic age” (age of peace and righteousness) on earth” (PPT Day 23, Slide #8). Based on this theology, the occurrence of the Messianic age can be expedited when more Jews observe Halakhah which will reunite more divine...

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...their Jewish identity without observance of all Jewish laws, which was previously central to the Jewish identity.
In conclusion, Hasidism’s agenda was grounded in the theology of reuniting all the divine sparks to initiate the Messianic age. This event could only be accomplished if all Jews, including commoners and seculars, observed Jewish law. In contrast, the Reform Movement’s agenda was to prevent the persecution and conversion of Jews and to gain acceptance within their respective European nations. This could only be accomplished through modernization or abandonment of problematic Jewish laws that common Jews were required to follow. Thus, both Hasidism and the Reform Movement required a focus on the common Jew’s observation or lack thereof of the Jewish laws, and a new rabbinic role as a spiritual guide in order to successfully achieve their respective agendas.

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