Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/16
Primary Language: English
So this is a piece of Jewish Folklore that I learned while living in Prague. Rabbi Loew is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Prague, which I have visited many times, and I have a statue of the Golem which I purchased at a stall outside of the cemetery. The Old-New Synagogue, built in the 13th century, still has services for the jewish community remaining in Prague. The Golem story has appeared often in literature and film, including Michael Chabon’s novel written in 2000 called “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.”
A “Golem” is a being formed on inanimate matter, magically animated into a living being. Many examples of Golems exist in Jewish folklore, including the Golem of Chelm, but the most famous is the Golem of Prague. In the 16th century, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bazalei created a Golem to protect the Jews of Prague from antisemitism. He fashioned the creature from clay taken from the banks of the Vltava river, and animated him using rituals and incantations, and by placing a “shem,” or name written on a piece of paper into the Golem’s mouth. As long as Rabbi Loew removed the “shem” on Shabbat, putting it back at the end, the Golem would protect the Jews of Prague. Finally, the Golem became violent, and went on a rampage – there are a lot of stories as to why this happened, one being that the Golem fell in love and was rejected. However, the accepted version is that Rabbi Loew forgot to remove the “shem” on Shabbat. He was eventually able to remove the “shem,” and the Golem turned to clay. The legend goes that the Golem was placed into the attic of the Old New Synagogue, which was then locked, and there he remains. The attic is still locked, and no one is allowed up there, where the Golem rests until he is needed again.
Coming form Jewish faith myself, I had never heard this piece of folklore before and have actually come to really appreciate it. It kind of reminds me of a piece of Indian God folklore that I once heard while traveling in India. I really enjoy folklore that has to do with magic, I think it is almost childish, but still thrilling.