Orthodox Judaism is the formulation of Judaism that adheres to a relatively strict interpretation and application of the laws and ethics first canonized in the Talmudic texts ("Oral Torah") and as subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim.
Orthodox Judaism is characterized by:
- Belief that the Torah (i.e. the Pentateuch) and its pertaining laws are Divine, were transmitted by God to Moses, are eternal, and are unalterable;
- Belief that there is also an oral law in Judaism, which contains the authoritative interpretation of the written Torah's legal sections, is also Divine - having been transmitted in some form by God to Moses along with the Pentateuch - and has been passed down to and expounded by various authorities from Moses to the Talmudic period. This oral law is embodied in the Talmud, Midrash, and innumerable related texts, all intrinsically and inherently entwined with the written law of the Torah;
- Belief that God has made an exclusive, unbreakable covenant with the Children of Israel (the descendants of the Jewish patriarch, Jacob, whose other name was Israel) to be governed by the Torah;
- Adherence to Halakha. This includes acceptance of codes, mainly the Shulchan Aruch, as authoritative practical guidance in application of both the written and oral laws. It also incudes acceptance of halakha-following Rabbis as authoritative interpreters and judges of Jewish law. New Halakhic rulings can be made by Orthodox authorities, but such rulings cannot contradict or remove previous accepted Halakhic rulings, which are considered more authoritative;
- Belief in a Jewish eschatology, including a Jewish Messiah, a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, and a resurrection of the dead; and
- Near universal belief in the thirteen Jewish principles of faith as stated by the Rambam (Maimonides).