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Sometimes, the religious reaction of the Jews was influenced by political considerations.
The almost frenzied Jewish opposition to images of any sort toward the close of the Second Temple period seems to have been prompted by the extreme nationalist elements, happy to find a point in which their political opposition could be based on a clear-cut religious issue.
For purposes of cult and of religious observance, as well as for household and personal adornment, Jews have constantly produced or made use of objects which appealed in some fashion to their aesthetic sense. 133b), the rabbis, commenting on Exodus 15:2, prescribed that God should be "adorned" by the use of beautiful implements for the performance of religious observances. 5:8 and in great detail –18) ostensibly prohibits, in the sternest terms, the making of any image or likeness of man or beast.
At the same period, in other areas, the inhibitions were so strong as to exclude such objects even from secular use.
In more recent times, portrait painting and photography have come to be generally – though not quite universally – tolerated even among the extreme orthodox.
In the 18 century, Jewish painters and portraitists – artists in the modern sense – began to appear in several European countries.
But it is not easy to explain the sudden emergence in recent generations of a flood of artists of outstanding genius, largely of Eastern European origin, in France, the United States, and elsewhere.
The mysterious hoard of copper and ivory cult-objects of the Chalcolithic period found in 1961 in Naḥal Mishmar, not far from the Dead Sea, shows a sense of form and a high standard of execution.