From the archetypical story of Abraham smashing his father's
household idols to God's commandment at Mount Sinai that "You shall
have no other gods before Me," the prohibition in Judaism against
the worship of idols has been unyielding. Idolatry is conceived as
the antithesis to the worship of the invisible, unnamed, and
The proscription against using images in worship sets Judaism,
together with Islam, apart from all other religious systems. In
"Beyond the Graven Image, " Lionel Kochan sets out to explain the
reasons for this prohibition and to demonstrate how influential
this image-ban has been in determining key aspects of Jewish
thinking. The Jewish conceptions of holiness and symbolism, our
relationship with God, and the role of memory in religion, he
argues, as well as the preference for non- material arts such as
music over visual modes of artistic expression within Judaism, have
all been profoundly shaped by the prohibition against physical
representations of God.
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