Difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Judaism

Essay by Lev EpshteynUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 1996

download word file, 8 pages 3.7

Downloaded 79 times

For the most part, modern Jewish history deals with the political,

social and economic advancements achieved by the Ashkenazi communities

in Europe, America, and later -- Palestine. Because of it's relatively

small size and involvement in the affairs of 'civilized' countries of

Europe and America, the Sephardi branch of Judaism is rerely dealt with in

the context of modern Jewish history. Their developement is however, though

not as influential upon the flow of the 'mainstream' history as that of the

Ashkenazi jewry, is nevertheless an area of interest to anyone undertaking

a serious study of Jewish history.

The theological difference between the two movements, the Sefardi and

the Ashekenazi, lies in the traditional laws more than in written ones.

Both take an Orthodoxal approach to the written law of the Torah, and the

differences in its interpretation are subtle enough to be dismissed.

However the traditions aquired, and at times given the power of laws, in

the course of the long centuries of diaspora differ considerably from one

branch of Judaism to another.

Just as the worldwide language of the

Ashekenazim, Yiddish, is a mixture of Hebrew with German, the common

language used by the Sephardim Ladino, still in use in some parts of the

world, is a dialect formed by combining Hebrew with Spanish. The Sephardim

who have historically been more involved into the lives of the gentile

societies where they settled don't have as strict a set of observances as

do the Ashkenazis who have been contained in closed ghettos up until two

centuries ago. The official doctrine of the Sephardis does not for example

prohibit polygomy, whereas it hasn't been allowed in the Ashkenazi law

since Middle Ages.

Although the Ashkenazi traditions are somewhat stricter than those

of the Sephardim, a greater percentage of Ashkenazi Jews...