Jews believe in happiness

Sin, Guilt, and Forgiveness in JudaismOnce and never again

There is the biblical saying "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Forget everything you heard about this Bible quote. In Judaism it is interpreted differently than in Christianity. "'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' appears three times in the Hebrew Bible, in the Tenach. If you really think that means what many Christians think, then you should visit a dentist and an optician," says Walter Rothschild, liberal rabbi from Berlin and adds:

"Really, it's stupid, they haven't read it, they haven't read the context, from quarrels and someone gets hurt and what it's supposed to cost and so on."

There are many currents in Judaism, from orthodox to liberal. But everyone knows the Jewish jurisprudence on compensation for victims. It belongs to the context of "an eye for an eye" that someone who has been damaged or stolen not only gets the stolen property back or, if he is injured, the hospital is paid, but also up to 20 percent of the loss on top. That is what this list is about. Not about, as the Christian reading is, repaying the perpetrator the same way.

Jewish scholars have argued over the HOW of compensation for centuries, in ever new comments on justice. In Judaism, a distinction is made between sins against one's neighbor and against God.

Walter Rothschild: "When it comes to other people, then I have to try to make amends for what I have somehow damaged, lost, broken - whatever. (...) When it comes to something about God, then it's between me and God. Nobody should interfere. We don't have a personal concept of confession, we confess together. "

The rabbi, author, cabaret artist, songwriter and jazz singer Dr. Walter Rothschild (Deutschlandradio)

In Judaism there is no priestly authority that mediates between God and man. Everyone can turn to God directly. But there is also a kind of collective penance ritual: namely, a confessional prayer in the evening service of the Jewish festival of atonement, Yom Kippur.

"There we get up and say together: We have sinned," says Walter Rothschild. "We failed. But nobody has to be ashamed. Nobody has to say to themselves, I am the only one who gets up. It is not my job to say: Everyone who has committed adultery now stands up now. Or who murdered. We. We Stand up together as a congregation. Confess together to God. "

Ideal of forgiveness

The Ten Commandments are a guideline for social interaction. Interpersonal misconduct can also leave deep marks. False accusations or fraud. It is a high ideal that you then pass by the culprit and personally ask his forgiveness.

Walter Rothschild: "The ideal rarely occurs. I also have to admit, there are a few people on this earth that I would never want to meet again. Some things are relatively easy - forget birthday present. Other things not so easy: 'Oh dear, I'm sorry about this affair. ' There's a huge palette, a huge spectrum. The idea is the most important thing. In the end, you can't say: Everything is perfect. But you can say I've done my best. To make tabula rasa again as clean as possible. And me hope that's enough. "

In the Jewish faith, forgiveness also includes the idea of ​​repentance and repentance. That one is sorry for the deed, the sin. Medieval scholar Maimonides has pondered how to tell that a sinner sincerely repents.

"Don't fall into the same sin as before. Best proof that you've learned: If you don't repeat it when it is possible."

There are sins that cannot be repaired. Murder, for example. But a breach of trust can also be drastic. You can't undo what happened. In Judaism one should nevertheless practice forgiving and repenting.

"It's so important," says Rothschild. "Because otherwise, in human psychology, we like to hold on to our anger and disappointment, to the hatred. And you notice that. Me too. I'm not a perfect role model either. It's very difficult to go to them and say: Can we make it up to you. I should, but I just find it difficult. "

Judaism knows 613 commandments, the mitzvot. Many commandments and prohibitions refer to times long past. When there was still animal sacrifice and the temple. But neither have existed for a long time. In this respect, parts of the commandments refer to a time that is long gone; the commandments are no longer relevant, but are still handed down.

Religion and society - who changes whom?

One area in which there is always a risk of sin in religions is sexuality. Sexuality is highly valued in Judaism, but only within marriage. Divorce or abortion - the upsets in Catholicism - were never a problem in Judaism.

On the other hand, the contempt for homosexuality is cross-religious. Here, however, the context is now more taken into account. In the story of Lot in Sodom, for example, homosexuality is portrayed as an act of violence and therefore rejected. At the end of the 20th century, the view of homosexual Jews changed. Because same-sex couples can support and enrich the religious community. In liberal Judaism today, homosexuals are accepted and even married. Rabbi Rothschild definitely sees a change in handling here:

"Who decides which definition is valid? Now it is like this: two men can come to the priest or rabbi and say we want a wedding. That was unthinkable a few decades ago. Okay? What will be normal in the next 20 years or..." There are also people who say I want to have a wedding with someone who is not Jewish and I demand that the rabbi do it, or the priest, someone who is a Christian, that was unthinkable a few decades ago. What I mean: It used to be seen as a sin to have a non-Jewish girlfriend or boyfriend. "

Yes, it was like that. The view of what was once considered to be sin and guilt is changing. In plural democracies, religions are changed more by society than that they shape this society itself. Secular law takes precedence over religious commandments. In 1972, the first reform synagogues were built in the USA that married same-sex couples, writes the Judaist Tanja Kröni. And in 1990 the Reform Rabbis Conference decided to ordain homosexual rabbis, but emphasized heterosexual families as the foundation of the congregations. But what believers are supposed to perceive as sin or guilt, every generation has to open up again and again.

Rothschild: "We are all creatures of God. May I kill an animal in order to eat it? Yes. - May I kill an animal for fun? No. - It is about the definition of battles. There are other handsome contemporaries of the other Gender. May I speak to him? Yes. - May I harass him? No. - The limit is sometimes a question of definition. There are many things where the question arises: it's nice, can I destroy it? So every time if I buy a bouquet, someone killed this flower. Murdered. Cut off. It looks nice. It smells good for a few days. But actually someone destroyed a beautiful flower. So that I can give joy when I give these flowers away . Where are the limits here? "

Even today, Jews dispute over many definitions and interpretations of the scriptures. Whoever has the better argument may convince.

"When people say I don't feel like it anymore, I want to live my own life, it's a sin."

That is the unwritten commandment: You should belong to a community.