LETTERS: Revealing Jewish graven images

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The Independent Online
From Ms Sheila Levy

Sir: Martin Goldenberg, referring to your report "Jerusalem shuns the naked David" (22 July), points out that Michelangelo's David is uncircumcised. Surely, this must have been due to Michelangelo's thoughtlessness rather than to the 15th-century Florentine political or theological considerations.

When writing of "graven images", Mr Goldenberg should have pointed out that the Second Commandment concludes by stating: "You shall not bow down to them nor serve them", which implies the prohibition against idolatry. Indeed, in post-biblical times, when Jews lived in an environment where there was no cult of idol worship, Jewish figurative art flourished.

It is only in this century that examples of narrative paintings and figural mosaics, which were written about by the rabbis, have come to light. Among the most impressive are the third-century synagogue of Dura Europos, with walls painted from top to bottom with biblical and historical scenes; and the sixth-century Beth Alpha synagogue with its mosaic floor. Perhaps revelation of some of the statues we read of as being in the thirdcentury synagogues of Babylonia is still to come.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila Levy

London, NW11

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