Worship of graven images is harshly condemned throughout the Torah, and perhaps the greatest sin the Israelites collectively committed was the construction of the Golden Calf (in Ex. 32), intended to serve as a physical intermediary between them and God.
Today, Jews do not venerate any holy relics or man-made symbols. But in the history of the Jewish people, there was one exception to this rule. One man-made object was considered intrinsically holy – the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark was the most important symbol of the Jewish faith, and served as the physical manifestation of God on earth.
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