Journal Article

Is Profane Work an Obstacle to Salvation? The Case of Ultra Orthodox (Haredi) Jews in Contemporary Israel

Nurit Stadler

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 63, issue 4, pages 455-474
Published in print January 2002 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2002 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Is Profane Work an Obstacle to Salvation? The Case of Ultra Orthodox (Haredi) Jews in Contemporary Israel

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In this article I demonstrate how devotees interpret and shape traditional components in a complex process of ‘bricolage.’ I discuss this process throuth the examination of explanations and interpretations given by members of the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel for their choice of studious life devotion over paid work and livelihood. An examination of the conceptions, attitudes and values regarding work and learning bears upon the way the community relates to worldly affairs and individual existence in the world. My analysis and findings indicate a shift from mainstream Judaism, which stresses work and the importance of wage-earning. In contrast, Haredi male members have revived religious interpretations derived mainly from well-known Biblical narratives and combined them with quotations from specific texts derived from the rabbinical tradition. Accordingly, interpretations that have been considered marginal in the Jewish hermeneutic tradition, and often suppressed by key rabbinical figures, have been drawn out of the concealed textual shelves and reintroduced into the center of religious discourse, thought and practice. In this process, the traditional rabbinical view that stressed hard work and activism in the world is transformed. This is accomplished through the redefinition of work by condemning the productive and activist image of human action bringing about new modes of thought, religious symbols and economic behavior.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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