Danijela Tešić Radovanović deposited The Menorah as a Symbol of Jewish Identity in the Diaspora and an Expression of Aspiration for Renewing the Jerusalem Temple in the group Material Sources for Early Islam and Late Antique Near East on Humanities Commons 2 years, 5 months ago
Jewish relation to representational art is determined mostly by the Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” As science has observed, the commandment has not always been honoured to the letter and its understanding has been changing depending on the actual circumstances a community is facing. At times of political crises and religious pressures, resistance to figural representations grew. A period from the late 1st to the 7th century CE, particularly from the 3rd to the first half of the 7th century is an exception. The thing is that in contact with Greco-Roman civilisation and under the influence of cultural and religious syncretism, quite characteristic for the period of Late Antiquity, the Jewish culture became more open to representational arts. On the walls in synagogues and catacombs there are figural images, of which the most representational ones are the scenes from the Old Testament, discovered in the Dura-Europos synagogue. However, many more non-figural objects have been preserved, mostly architectural structures and religious objects resembling the Jerusalem Temple. A repeated image of menorah stands out, occurring on grave stones, synagogue mosaic floors, catacomb walls, lamps and objects of applied art found not only in Palestine but all over the Jewish diaspora. The seven-branched lampstand is designed according to the God’s instructions for the service in the Tabernacle or the Solomon’s Temple. When the menorah was taken to Rome after the destruction of the Second Temple, it became an expression of an aspiration for a renewal of the Jerusalem Temple and a symbol of the Jewish identity.