Compromise

 

The Jews of Kaifeng oftentimes willingly took upon Chinese practices; however, oftentimes, there would be a conflict of interest between Chinese and Jewish culture, which would force the Jews of Kaifeng into compromise, if the Chinese custom was backed by law.

According to the Torah, if a married man died without a child, his brother was obliged to marry his widow. The surviving brother would take over the estate of the deceased brother. The offspring of this union would take on the name of the deceased brother. This practice ensured the continuity of the deceased brother’s legacy, kept the family together and offered protection to the widow. However, levirate marriage was illegal under Chinese imperial law and the Jews of Kaifeng had to put this practice to a halt.

Certain Chinese emperors also demanded that their portraits be hung on the walls of every place of worship. This was clearly against Judaic teachings. The Jews had no choice but to put portraits of emperors on the entrance of synagogue; however, on top of the portraits, they always wrote in Hebrew the holy prayer of Shema Yisrael which translates to “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” To the Jews, this meant God was above all the Chinese emperors.