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idol eidolon and idea

> But M.E. Wood is right about the "appearance" of the thing.  I have encountered
> many gentiles who, having attended a synagogue service and observed the respect
> accorded to scrolls of the Torah in procession  round the sanctuary, as well as
> the fact that they are housed in an  Ark that forms the centerpiece of the
> Eastern wall towards which the congregation faces in prayer, have simply
> assumed that the Jews "worship" the Torah.   They are drawn to this conclusion

Nevertheless, Moroccan Jews gather at the gravesites of great Tzaddiqim
and offer hymns in honor of the saint (a practice, known as hillula,
revived in modern-day Israel). American and Israeli Hasidim are sometimes
very attached to the image and words of Menachim Schneerson, a great
religious genius. Most interestingly, printed copies ofthe Zohar, a
pseudepigraphic 13th-century text which became accepted throughout the
Jewish world, are treated with the same reverence given the Torah. The
Zohar will actually make visits to the homes of individaul Moroccan jews
during times of trouble. (For more, see Harvey GOldberg's "The Zohar in
Southern Morocco: A Study in the Ethnography of Texts." in History of
Religions 1990); this can easily be compared with the movement of certain
non-Jewish icons.

Of course, in view of the goddess-like veneration given to wisdom in
Proverbs 8 (cf. saying 1 in the Aramaic proverbs of Ahiqar, which seems to
refer to the divinization of a being called Wisdom) and the transference
of that role to Torah herself in Genesis Rabbah (where I believe Torah is
described as existing before the universe and being used by God as a sort
of manual), it seems that certain god-like tendencies linger on in the
traditions surrounding the Torah. 

Jews actually do sometimes venerate both people and books in a way similar
to that of "idolators." As Judith astutely points out, though, the idea
that people are too dumb to tell the difference between an image designed
as a very concrete metaphor for a god, and the god itself, is purely
polemical. For an eloquent exposition of idolatry in its Mesopotamian
manifestation, no better work exists than Thorkild Jacobsen's "The Graven
Image" (in Fs. Cross). His insights are confirmed cross-culturally by a
comparison with Diana Eck's brief ethnography of idolatry in modern-day
Banaras, _Darsan_.

Seth L. Sanders
Dept. of Near Eastern Studies
The Johns Hopkins University