The Golem

Golem of Prague

I recently finished a book that had an interesting story about a Golem.

golem of hollywood

The book was in my estimation only a so so story but the subject is fascinating.

Today in Prague it is an entire business and the statues of Golems can be seen everywhere but I can imagine that the tales of the Golem were terrifying at one time. The idea of making a human from mud has shades of the Frankenstein tale.

Both the story of Frankenstein and the legend of the Golem have the same core. How is man so full of himself that he can do what only God should be able to do? In our age of technology will robots become the Golems of modern times? How will technology affect how we view life and ourselves. There is a lot to think about I think in this tale so I am sharing a bit of what I have found.

Here is some research from the internet. 

In Jewish tradition, the golem is most widely known as an artificial creature created by magic, often to serve its creator. The word “golem” appears only once in the Bible (Psalms139:16). In Hebrew, “golem” stands for “shapeless mass.” The Talmud uses the word as “unformed” or “imperfect” and according to Talmudic legend, Adam is called “golem,” meaning “body without a soul” (Sanhedrin 38b) for the first 12 hours of his existence. The golem appears in other places in the Talmud as well. One legend says the prophet Jeremiah made a golem However, some mystics believe the creation of a golem has symbolic meaning only, like a spiritual experience following a religious rite.

The Sefer Yezirah (“Book of Creation”), often referred to as a guide to magical usage by some Western European Jews in the Middle Ages, contains instructions on how to make a golem. Several rabbis, in their commentaries on Sefer Yezirah have come up with different understandings of the directions on how to make a golem. Most versions include shaping the golem into a figure resembling a human being and using God’s name to bring him to life, since God is the ultimate creator of life..

According to one story, to make a golem come alive, one would shape it out of soil, and then walk or dance around it saying combination of letters from the alphabet and the secret name of God. To “kill” the golem, its creators would walk in the opposite direction saying and making the order of the words backwards.

Other sources say once the golem had been physically made one needed to write the letters aleph, mem, tav, which is emet and means “truth,” on the golem’s forehead and the golem would come alive. Erase the aleph and you are left with mem and tav, which is met, meaning “death.”

Another way to bring a golem to life was to write God’s name on parchment and stick it on the golem’s arm or in his mouth. One would remove it to stop the golem.

Often in Ashkenazi Hasidic lore, the golem would come to life and serve his creators by doing tasks assigned to him. The most well-known story of the golem is connected to Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal of Prague (1513-1609). It was said that he created a golem out of clay to protect the Jewish community from Blood Libel and to help out doing physical labor, since golems are very strong. Another version says it was close to Easter, in the spring of 1580 and a Jew-hating priest was trying to incite the Christians against the Jews. So the golem protected the community during the Easter season. Both versions recall the golem running amok and threatening innocent lives, so Rabbi Loew removed the Divine Name, rendering the golem lifeless. A separate account has the golem going mad and running away. Several sources attribute the story to Rabbi Elijah of Chelm, saying Rabbi Loew, one of the most outstanding Jewish scholars of the sixteenth century who wrote numerous books on Jewish law, philosophy, and morality, would have actually opposed the creation of the Golem.

It seems that this tale is cautioning us that no matter how brilliant and wise we can over reach ourselves when we try to imitate God. The creation of life is meant for the divine not for the every day human.

One comment

  1. okiemagic · May 7, 2015

    Fascinating..Heard the legend of the Golem of Prague since childhood…I need to get that book…

    Like

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