Judaism’s Encounter with Modernity: Reinterpreting the Torah

Judaism’s Encounter with Modernity: Reinterpreting the Torah

PDF of essay about the Jewish reformer's reinterpretation of the Torah

Alexandra L. Borgesen, Spring 2016


This essay examines Reform Judaism and the need to reinterpret the Torah for the sake of keeping up with contemporary issues facing the Jewish culture. This is accomplished by analyzing Judaism as it is developing in the Western part of the world, where Judaism is increasingly losing its adherence to scriptural texts. Without reinterpreting the Torah, certain elements included in Jewish Scripture are considered incongruent and outdated when compared to the moral compass governing society today. As the Jewish religion changes, thus develops a new denomination within Judaism referred to as Reform Judaism.

The analysis in this essay further compares the new denomination with the most Orthodox beliefs and the Orthodox Jew’s commitment to the Torah by providing a perspective on Judaism as an evolving religious civilization aiming to preserve the traditional Jewish faith through reinterpretation of the Torah. In addition to this, the essay questions whether the Jewish faith is losing grounds to a more secular belief system, in which the Jewish identity is more about heritage and culture than faith in God.

Topics included in this essay are the Western Jewish individual’s ties to Israel, the Jewish traditions and the Jewish way of life. The survival of Judaism and what it means to be Jewish. The significance of the Torah with respect to a changing society. The Reformer’s perspective on marriage, opting out, and homosexuality. The purpose of reinterpreting the Torah, and what this could mean for the future of Judaism.