This question relates to what we know about Jewish observance since the exile. I was curious if we knew for certain how observant most Jews were throughout most of history and if that observance varied then as it does in certain western societies today.
There's a belief that the entire world rests on the backs of the Tzadikim Nistarim (the 36 righteous ones) - Tractate Sanhedrin 97b; Tractate Sukkah 45b
This idea seems to indicate, even partially, that keeping Jews observant has been a struggle for the community beyond just the current era.
If you look at a city like New York, you see a wide range of Jews who all vary in observance.
- Some are deeply pious and observant
- Some are middle of the road (not the most observant but still connect to the community and observe on some level)
- Some are entirely secular. (Jewish as an ethnicity with little to not religious foundations)
My question is do we know if this is a modern situation or has the Jewish community always existed with this type of spectrum?
Obviously, the Reform and Conservative movements didn't come into exist until very recently in Jewish history. That being said, I have to wonder if our community has always had such populations as part of the "whole" on some level.