Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy
What is the modern day equivalent of Pharisees and Sadducees in contemporary Judaism (if at all)?
The Pharisees parallel the Hareidim among the Orthodox Jews of today. The Sadducees are more like Reform Jews than anything else though they also have some resemblance to the Karaites.
The word "Pharises" is from the Hebrew "Porush" i.e. Separated. The Parushim were a group among the learned Jews who were extra pious and stricter than most in ritual matters of purity etc. They did not hold that their way was correct whereas that of the other Jews was not, they just took more care and extra precautions. The Parushim were the leaders of the People who at that time were basically observant i.e. the equivalent of Orthodox Jews today. Most Jews of the time followed the Torah according to the ruling of the Sages. A good number, but not necessarily all, of the Sages were Parushim. There was a love-hate ambivalent relationship between the common people and the Sages. This is similar to the situation today.
The Sadducees according to Maimonides were actually atheistic. They pretended to adhere to the Written Law alone in order to undermine belief altogether. They were inclined to adopt Hellenistic and Roman culture and modes. Many of them were rich and from the upper levels of society. Cohens (from the priestly families) were prominent among BOTH the Sadducees and Pharisees.
The Sadducees were closer to the Helenizing elements among the Jews. These parallel the Secular in Israel who are actual a minority segment of the population. The city of Tel Aviv is dominated by the Secular and is know for its hedonistic and gay culture. This is similar to the Helenization of ancient times. It is what the Maccabees fought against. The Sadducees may well have felt at home in the Tel Aviv of today though here too one should not exaggerate. Tel Aviv looks the way it does because it pays certain interests that it look that way. In practice most of its Jewish inhabitants are basically religiously Orthodox when judged from an oversea perspective.
The Sadducees had ties with the Samaritans and at one stage had intermarried with some of them.
The later Karaites also claimed to only believe in the Written Law though inventing one of their own and keeping neither.
The early Conservative and Reform Movements as well as Christianity in some cases claimed to be returning to the true spirit of Judaism and/or the Bible rather than its outward manifestations.
In short the Pharisees were almost identical with the present-day Hareidim. The Sadducees do not closely resemble any modern group but their psychological attitude, socio-economic status, and other features are not unlike those of Reform Judaism.