Zev Radovan

“Lay not [Your Hand]” commands the inscription below the hand of God, top center, on this sixth-century C.E. floor mosaic from the Beth Alpha synagogue, in Israel’s Jezreel Valley. The tesserae, or mosaic tiles, spell out God’s words and depict the events of the Akedah: from right to left, the altar with a raging fire; Isaac in the hands of Abraham (their names in Hebrew above their heads); a thicket and the ram, who will be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, with an inscription that reads, “Behold a ram”; and a servant pulling an ass, who stands in front of a second servant. A few branches and a row of alternating gold and brown palm trees add to the mosaic’s folk art character.

The mosaic, one of three large Door panels, lay near the door, so that anyone who entered was confronted by the scene. Walking from here to the apse, visitors crossed a large mosaic zodiac and then a panel (see next photo) depicting a lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron), menorahs, and the Ark of the Law—the same objects that accompanied the Akedah image at Dura-Europos (see photo of Torah niche at Dura-Europos), 300 years earlier.