Orthodox Judaism comprises the traditionalist branches of contemporary Rabbinic Judaism. Theologically, it is chiefly defined by regarding the Torah, both Written and Oral, as literally revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and faithfully transmitted down through the generations of sages ever since.
Orthodox Judaism therefore advocates a strict observance of the Jewish law, or Halakha, which is to be interpreted and determined only according to traditional methods and in adherence to the continuum of received precedent through the ages. It regards the entire halakhic system as ultimately grounded in immutable revelation, essentially beyond external and historical influence. More than any theoretical issue, obeying the Sabbath, dietary, purity, ethical, and other laws of halakha is the hallmark of Jewish Orthodoxy. Other key doctrines include belief in a future bodily resurrection of the dead, divine reward and punishment for the righteous and the sinners, the Election of Israel as a people bound by a covenant with God, and an eventual Messianic Age ruled by a salvific Messiah-King who will restore the Temple of Jerusalem.
Orthodox Judaism is not a centralized Jewish denomination. Relations between its different subgroups are sometimes strained, and the exact limits of Jewish Orthodoxy are subject to intense debate. Very roughly, it may be divided between Haredi Judaism (ultra-Orthodox), which is more conservative and reclusive, and Modern Orthodox Judaism, which is relatively open to outer society. Each of those is itself formed of independent streams. They are almost uniformly exclusionist, regarding Orthodoxy not as another stream of Judaism, but as the correct form of Judaism itself.
While adhering to traditional beliefs, the movement is a modern phenomenon. It arose as a result of the breakdown of the autonomous Jewish community since the 18th century, and was much shaped by a conscious struggle against the pressures of Jewish Enlightenment and even more far-reaching secularization and rival alternatives. The strictly observant and theologically aware Orthodox are a definite minority among all Jews, but there are also some semi- and non-practicing individuals who are officially affiliated or personally identify with the movement. In total, Orthodox Judaism is the largest Jewish religious group, estimated to have over 2 million practicing adherents and at least an equal number of nominal members or self-identifying supporters.
Even more than in Europe's for
Even more than in Europe's formal state rabbinates, Orthodox Judaism exerts a powerful, transnational authority through its control of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Regulating Jewish marriage, conversion, adoption, and dietary standards in the country, the Chief Rabbinate influences both Israel's population and Jews worldwide.