Jewish Practices 101
Traditionally, Judaism has attempted to codify behavioral norms on the basis of specified requirements and prohibitions that govern the ethical and the ritual alike. They seem to generate a total guide to existence, regulating a person's relations both with God and with other human beings. The ancient rabbis derived some of these directly from the Torah--or at least found support for them there. Others are unabashedly rabbinic innovations. Whether designed to safeguard the biblical limits by placing additional restrictions on Jews' behavior, or responding to exigencies not addressed by the Torah, those innovations derive their authority from the Jewish community's acceptance of rabbinic authority. Philosophers and theologians have debated whether some underlying principal or ethic beyond the mitzvot themselves gives shape to them. Contemporary Jews differ over whether the system of mitzvot should be taken as obligatory or as a source of values for independent, individual decision-making.
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