It is the oldest monotheistic world religion, a way of life and a people: Judaism has always been part of society in many parts of the world, yet little is known about its customs among outsiders.
"Most people think all Jews are rich, yet a third of the Israelite people live below the poverty line. But we ignore these prejudices, we don't care about them." With much humor, and even more fervor, Luxembourg's Chief Rabbi Alain Nacache provides insight into the basic principles of Judaism. One of the three world religions, the so-called Judaism has a total of 15 million believers, although in the eyes of the Jewish scholar, this is not necessarily the correct word: "Judaism is a way of life, a way of seeing the world and understanding it. We are not a race or an ethnicity, as is often claimed. We are a people."
An estimated 1,500 Jews currently live in Luxembourg, but the fact that they live out their faith in many different ways is shown by the division into three main categories. "If you ask what it means to be Jewish, you get very different answers, depending on who you ask. Basically, it's always about one's relationship to modernity: there are the ultra-Orthodox Jews who see everything modern as something to be wary of. Then there is the liberal movement, which sees modernity as a kind of new deity, and there is the traditionalist Orthodoxy, to which I belong and which does not like extremes", says the Chief Rabbi.
Religion as a private matter
François Moyse is also part of the latter and describes himself as "in the middle". The president of the "Fondation luxembourgeoise pour la Mémoire de la Shoah" lives a typical Jewish life at home with his family, even if "typical" means something different in each case. "There's actually not much that distinguishes us from other, non-Jewish people. In Judaism, it doesn't depend on your faith, but on what you practice", says Moyse. In Luxembourg, he says, there are virtually no strictly Orthodox Jews, such as those known in Antwerp, but community members who live out their traditions more discreetly and in private. A good example is the kippah, which most people in the Grand Duchy either do not wear at all on the open street, or wear hidden under a hat, according to the Foundation's president.
There are two types of rules in Judaism: Laws, such as the aforementioned day of rest, which was already recorded in the Ten Commandments and is not open to debate, and rabbinic rules, which also include the traditional head covering. Moyse explains its significance as follows: "It is like a layer between us and God and is meant to show that we are never in direct contact with Him. It is a sign of humility." In order to understand the practices and precepts of the Jewish community, reading as well as interpretation of the texts plays a central role in traditionalist Judaism. In addition to the Torah, that is, the Hebrew Bible consisting of the five books of Moses, the Oral Tradition of the teachings, recorded by rabbis over time in the Talmud, is a core element of daily rituals.
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