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    Statue of a rabbi – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. In Prague I saw a statue of the Maharal (Rabbi Yehudah Loew ben B’tzalel) who purportedly made the Golem. What is your view about statues of rabbis?

    A. The Ten Commandments are against making “the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Ex. 20:4).

    The Talmud specifically says that one may not produce a representation of a human being (RH 24b). The Shulchan Aruch quotes a view that this applies only to the full form of a human and a partial view could be another thing (Yoreh De’ah 141:7).

    Though this is due to a fear that the representation will become an object of worship, the rule applies even when the picture or statue is not for purposes of worship.

    In the Talmud there are references to statues of kings and other leaders but I doubt whether there is any evidence of statues of rabbis.

    If the Maharal had been asked about erecting a statue in his honour he would certainly have said “No”. He would have told people that if they wanted to honour him they should read his books and heed his teachings.

    The rabbis were probably not consulted about the statue in Prague and the odds are that it is part of the local culture and narrative.

    I know from my own visit to the city that the story of the rabbi and his Golem is on the tourist agenda because of its romantic content, and the Jewish community is probably pleased to think that a Jewish contribution to local culture is so famous.

    It is quite another question to ask why the Maharal’s community had to suffer so much antisemitism.

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