Reform Judaism (also known as Liberal Judaism or Progressive Judaism) is a major Jewish denomination that emphasizes the evolving nature of the faith, the superiority of its ethical aspects to the ceremonial ones, and belief in a continuous revelation, closely intertwined with human reason and intellect, and not centered on the theophany at Mount Sinai. A liberal strand of Judaism, it is characterized by a lessened stress on ritual and personal observance, regarding Jewish Law as non-binding and the individual Jew as autonomous, and openness to external influences and progressive values. The origins of Reform Judaism lie in 19th-century Germany, where its early principles were formulated by Rabbi Abraham Geiger and his associates. Since the 1970s, the movement has adopted a policy of inclusiveness and acceptance, inviting as many as possible to partake in its communities. It is strongly identified with progressive political and social agendas, mainly under the traditional Jewish rubric Tikkun Olam , or "Repairing of the World". Tikkun Olam is a central motto of Reform Judaism, and action for its sake is one of the main channels for adherents to express their affiliation. The movement's greatest center today is in North America.
In Judaism, God has been conceived in a variety of ways. Traditionally, Judaism holds that YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the national god of the Israelites, delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and gave them the Law of Moses at biblical Mount Sinai as described in the Torah. According to the rationalist stream of Judaism articulated by Maimonides, which later came to dominate much of official traditional Jewish thought, God is understood as the absolute one, indivisible, and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence. Traditional interpretations of Judaism generally emphasize that God is personal yet also transcendent, while some modern interpretations of Judaism emphasize that God is a force or ideal.
In Judaism, confession (Hebrew: וִדּוּי, romanized: widduy, viddui) is a step in the process of atonement during which a Jew admits to committing a sin before God. In sins between a Jew and God, the confession must be done without others present (The Talmud calls confession in front of another a show of disrespect). On the other hand, confession pertaining to sins done to another person are permitted to be done publicly, and in fact Maimonides calls such confession "immensely praiseworthy".
In Judaism, ritual washing, or ablution, takes two main forms. A tevilah (טְבִילָה) is a full body immersion in a mikveh, and a netilat yadayim which is the washing of the hands with a cup (see Handwashing in Judaism ).
Happiness in Judaism and Jewish thought is considered an important value, especially in the context of the service of God. A number of Jewish teachings stress the importance of joy, and demonstrate methods of attaining happiness.
The Union for Reform Judaism (until 2003: Union of American Hebrew Congregations), founded in 1873 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, is the congregational arm of Reform Judaism in North America. The other two arms established by Rabbi Wise are the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The current president of the URJ is Rabbi Richard Jacobs.
The relations between Pope Benedict XVI and Judaism have remained fairly good, although concerns have been raised by Jewish leaders over the political impact of Traditionalists in the Church during the papacy of Benedict.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is the major congregational organization of Conservative Judaism in North America, and the largest Conservative Jewish communal body in the world. USCJ closely works with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis. It coordinates and assists the activities of its member communities on all levels.
Paul the Apostle has been placed within Second Temple Judaism by recent scholarship since the 1970s. A main point of departure with older scholarship is the understanding of Second Temple Judaism, and the covenant with God and the role of works, as a means to either gain, or to keep the covenant.
The prohibition of extracting semen in vain (in Hebrew: איסור הוצאת זרע לבטלה) is a rabbinic prohibition found in the midrash and Talmud. The prohibition forbids a male from intentional wasteful spilling of his semen.