October 28, 2021

#08-145: The Golem

Rabbi Loew and the Golem

Note: Jewish folk stories tell us of creatures made of clay by holy men, just as God made Adam. But sometimes when people trifle with magic, things can go horribly wrong...

Get Ready: The Jews often were (and sometimes still are) persecuted by the cultures in which they live(d). How do you think this real problem contributed to stories about the creation of golems?

Many followers of the monotheistic religions--Jews, Christians, and Muslims--believe that God created the first human, Adam, from clay, into which He breathed the breath of life. A tradition grew up among the Jews that some holy people, who were "close to God," could also create men from clay. But as the makers were not God, so the creature, called a "Golem," was imperfect. Most Golems, for example, were unable to speak.

Several rabbis are said to have created Golems to help the community in some way, and there were even manuals written on how to make a Golem of one's own. One essential step, according to some, was to mark the creature with one of the "names of God". Some used the Hebrew word emet, meaning "truth." Then, if for some reason the Golem needed to be destroyed (as with the Golem of Chelm, which continued to grow until its maker, Rabbi Eliyahu, began to fear that it would destroy the universe), one would simply erase the e, leaving the word met, meaning in Hebrew "death."

The most famous Golem of them all was the Golem of Prague. This creature, made by Rabbi Judah Loew, would protect the Jews of Prague from attacks by outsiders. His name was Josef, and it was said he had the power to make himself invisible, and even call on the spirits of the dead for assistance.

Every Friday night--the beginning of the weekly Jewish holy day, called the Sabbath--the Rabbi would de-activate Josef, allowing him to rest for 24 hours. But one Friday, the Rabbi forgot to do so, and the Golem remained "alive." It was feared that he would do something to desecrate the holy day; in fact, some say he became a monster and went on a rampage, until at last the Rabbi was able to remove the sacred name and stop him.

At that, Josef's body fell into pieces, which were saved in the attic of the Rabbi's synagogue, so the body could be reassembled if it were ever needed. Of course, a strict prohibition was put in place to prevent anyone from going into the attic--thus no one has ever seen it. Some claim it is there still; others say it has been moved to a nearby cemetery.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. attic
  2. de-activate
  3. desecrate
  4. manuals
  5. monotheistic
  6. Rabbi
  7. rampage
  8. reassembled
  9. sacred
  10. synagogue

  1. spoil; make a holy thing unclean
  2. like a Jewish "church"
  3. a series of acts of uncontrolled violence
  4. handbooks; written guides
  5. put out of operation; stop
  6. believing in only one god
  7. put back together
  8. holy; dedicated to god(s)
  9. the space under the roof of a building, often used for storage
  10. a Jewish minister

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for October 28, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. e; 3. a; 4. d; 5. f; 6. j; 7. c; 8. g; 9. h; 10. b