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Encyclopedia > Golem
Rabbi Loew and golem.
Rabbi Loew and golem.

In Jewish folklore, a golem (גולם, sometimes, as in Yiddish, pronounced goilem) is an animated being created entirely from inanimate matter. In modern Hebrew the word golem literally means 'cocoon', but can also mean "fool", "silly", or even "stupid". The name appears to derive from the word gelem (גלם), which means "raw material". A golem, in medieval folklore and Jewish mythology, is an animated being crafted from inanimate material. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Jewish mythology is the body of mythology of the Jewish people and Judaism as understood by some people. ... Yiddish (Yid. ... “Hebrew” redirects here. ...

Contents

History

Origins of the word

The word golem is used in the Bible to refer to an embryonic or incomplete substance: Psalm 139:16 uses the word גלמי, meaning my unshaped form (in Hebrew, words are derived by adding vowels to triconsonantal roots, here, גלם). The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person ("Seven characteristics are in an uncultivated person, and seven in a learned one", Pirkei Avoth 5:7). Similarly, golems are often used today in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but hostile to him in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow. This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the United States Library. ... Psalms (from the Greek: Psalmoi) (originally meaning songs sung to a harp, from psallein play on a stringed instrument, Ψαλμοί; Hebrew: Tehilim, תהילים) is a book of the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh or Old Testament. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The Mishnah (Hebrew משנה, repetition) is a major source of rabbinic Judaisms religious texts. ... Pirkei Avoth (Hebrew: Chapters of the Fathers, פרקי אבות ) or simply Avoth is a tractate of the Mishna composed of ethical maxims of the Rabbis of the Mishnaic period. ... This article is about metaphor in literature and rhetoric. ... Yiddish (Yid. ...


Earliest stories

The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. Adam is described in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 38b) as initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless hunk". Like Adam, all golems are created from mud. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy person was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person became, however, a being created by that person would be but a shadow of one created by God. Michelangelos Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel. ... The first page of the Vilna Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot, folio 2a. ... For the tractate in the Mishnah, see Sanhedrin (tractate). ... This article is about a type of online computer game. ... This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ...


Early on, the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. In Sanhedrin 65b, is the description of Raba creating a golem using the Sefer Yetzirah. He sent the golem to Rav Zeira; Rav Zeira spoke to the golem, but he did not answer. Said Rav Zeira, "I see that you were created by one of our colleagues; return to your dust." It is said that if a golem were made able to speak, that would give it a soul, and—because a golem cannot be made perfectly—that ability could make it very dangerous. For the tractate in the Mishnah, see Sanhedrin (tractate). ... Raba or Raba Ben Joseph Ben Hama(c. ... Sefer Yetzirah (Hebrew, Book of Creation[1], ספר יצירה) is the title of the earliest book on Jewish esotericism. ... Rav Zeira (or Rabbi Zeira ) was a Babylonian Amora mentioned frequently in the Talmud. ...


Owning and activating golems

Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ...


Other attributes of the golem were gradually added over time. In many tales the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing one of the names of God on its forehead, a slip of paper in its mouth, or enscribed on its body, or writing the word Emet (אמת, 'truth' in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter aleph in Emet to form Met (מת, 'dead' in Hebrew) the golem could be deactivated. Another way is by writing a specific incantation in the owner's blood on calfskin parchment, and placing it in the mouth. Removing the parchment will deactivate the golem. It is likely that this is the same incantation that the Rabbi recites in the classic narrative. At the bottom of the hands, the two letters on each hand combine to form יהוה (YHVH), the name of God. ... “Hebrew” redirects here. ...


The classic narrative

The most famous golem narrative involves Rabbi Judah Loew the Maharal of Prague, a 16th century rabbi. He is reported to have created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto of Josefov from Anti-Semitic attacks. The story of the Golem first appeared in print in 1847 in a collection of Jewish tales entitled Galerie der Sippurim, published by Wolf Pascheles of Prague. About sixty years later, a fictional account was published by Yudl Rosenberg (1909). Judah Lew ben Bezalel (Judah Loew son of Bezalel, also written as Yehudah ben Bezalel Levai [or Loew, Löw], 1525 – 17 September 1609 or 18 Elul 5369 according to the Hebrew calendar) was an important Talmudic scholar, Jewish mystic, and philosopher who served as a leading rabbi in Prague... Nickname: Motto: Praga Caput Rei publicae Location within the Czech Republic Coordinates: , Country Czech Republic Region Capital City of Prague Founded 9th century Government  - Mayor Pavel Bém Area  - City 496 km²  (191. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... For the town in Italy, see Rabbi, Italy. ... A ghetto is an area where people from a specific racial or ethnic background live as a group in seclusion, voluntarily or involuntarily. ... Josefov (Josephstadt in German) is an area of central Prague, today Czech Republic, formerly the Jewish quarter of the town. ... The Eternal Jew: 1937 German poster. ... Wolf Pascheles (born at Prague, May 11, 1814; died there November 22, 1857) was an Austrian Jewish publisher. ...


According to the legend, the Emperor made an edict proclaiming that the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed (depending on the version of the story). A golem could be made of clay from the banks of the Vltava river in Prague. Following the prescribed rituals, the Rabbi built the Golem and made him come to life by reciting special incantations in Hebrew. The Rabbi's intention was to have the Golem protect the Jewish community from harm. As Rabbi Loew's Golem grew bigger, he also became more violent and started killing the Gentiles (non-Jews) and spreading fear. Some versions also add that the Golem turns on his creator and attacks either his creator alone or the creator and the Jews as well. The Vltava   (Moldau in German and many other Germanic languages, Moldva in Hungarian, unrelated to the Moldova river of Romania) is the longest river in the Czech Republic, draining into the north from its source in Å umava through ÄŒeský Krumlov, ÄŒeské BudÄ›jovice, and Prague (Praha), merging with the Elbe... A Gentile refers to a non-Israelite; the word is derived from the Latin term gens (meaning clan or a group of families) and is often employed in the plural. ...


In the face of the strength demonstrated and violence perpetrated by the Golem, the Emperor begs Rabbi Loew to destroy the Golem, and in return he would promise that the persecution of and violence towards the Jews would stop. The Rabbi accepted this offer. To destroy the Golem, he rubbed out the first letter of the word "emet" or "aemaeth" (God's truth) from the golem's forehead to make the Hebrew word "met" or "maeth", meaning death. It was made clear to the Emperor that the Golem of Prague's remains would be stored in a coffin in the attic of the Altneuschul in Prague, and it can be summoned again if needed. The Alt-neu Shul, east facade. ...


It is said that the body of Rabbi Loew's golem lies in the attic where the genizah of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague is kept. A legend is told of a Nazi agent during World War II ascending the attic and trying to stab the golem, but perishing instead. [citation needed] The attic is not open to the general public. A typical attic. ... A genizah or geniza (Hebrew: storage; plural: genizot) is the store-room or depository in a synagogue, usually specifically for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics that were stored there before they could receive a proper cemetery burial, it being forbidden to throw away writings containing... The Alt-neu Schul The Old New Synagogue in Josefov, Prague, (the Alt-neu Schul) is Europes oldest active synagogue. ... Nickname: Motto: Praga Caput Rei publicae Location within the Czech Republic Coordinates: , Country Czech Republic Region Capital City of Prague Founded 9th century Government  - Mayor Pavel Bém Area  - City 496 km²  (191. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000...


The existence of a golem is sometimes a mixed blessing. Golems are not intelligent - if commanded to perform a task, they will take the instructions perfectly literally.


In some incarnations of the legend of the Maharal's golem, the golem has powers that can aid it in its tasks. These include invisibility, a heated touch, and the ability to use the Maharal's walking stick to summon spirits from the dead. This last power was often crucial, as the golem could summon dead witnesses, which the medieval Prague courts would allow to testify.


The hubris theme

In all Jewish kabbalistic descriptions of Golems, they are incapable of disobeying the one who created them, but in one version of the story, Rabbi Eliyahu of Chelm created a Golem that grew bigger and bigger until the rabbi was unable to kill it without trickery, whereupon it fell upon its creator and crushed him. The hubris theme in this version is similar to that in the stories of the monster of Frankenstein and of the broomstick in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It remains a standard feature of golems in popular culture. Elijah Baal Shem (d. ... Hubris or hybris (Greek ), according to its modern usage, is exaggerated self pride or self-confidence (overbearing pride), often resulting in fatal retribution. ... This article is about the 1818 novel. ... For the childrens T.V series, see The Sorcerers Apprentice (TV series). ...


The golem in European culture

In the late nineteenth century the golem was adopted by mainstream European society. Most notably Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem based on the tales of the golem created by Judah Low ben Bezalel. This book inspired a classic set of expressionistic silent movies, Paul Wegener's Golem series, of which especially The Golem: How He Came Into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, USA 1921) is famous. Another famous treatment from the same era is H. Leivick's 1921 Yiddish-language "dramatic poem in eight sections" The Golem. Also notable is Julien Duvivier's "Le Golem" (1936), a sequel to the Wegener film. Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer also wrote a version of the legend. Gustav Meyrink (January 19, 1868 – December 4, 1932) was an Austrian author, storyteller, dramatist, translator, banker and Buddhist, most famous for his novel The Golem. ... Year 1915 (MCMXV) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday[1] of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... The Golem is a novel written by Gustav Meyrink in 1914. ... Judah Low ben Bezalel (1525 — 1609) was a Jewish scholar and rabbi, most of his life in Prague. ... Expressionism in filmmaking developed in Germany (especially Berlin) during the 1920s. ... A silent film is a film which has no accompanying soundtrack. ... Paul Wegener (born December 11, 1874 in Arnoldsdorf (Westpreußen; now Jarantowice, Poland); died September 13, 1948 in Berlin) was a German actor and film director. ... H. Leivick (pen name of Leivick Halper, December 1888–December 23, 1962) was a Yiddish language writer, known for his 1921 dramatic poem in eight scenes The Golem. ... The Golem (original Yiddish title Der Goylem) is a 1921 dramatic poem in eight scenes by H. Leivick. ... Julien Duvivier (October 8, 1896 in Lille - October 30, 1967 in Paris) was a French film director. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


These tales saw a dramatic change, and some would argue a Christianization [citation needed], of the golem. The golem became a creation of overambitious and overreaching mystics, who would inevitably be punished for their blasphemy, as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the alchemical homunculus. The Homunculus appears occasionally in the folklore of Eastern Europe as a construct made from natural materials such as dirt, roots, insects, feces, and other substances. In these stories the creature is revived through incantation and acts as a vehicle for the astrally projected mind of a sorcerer. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English romantic/gothic novelist and the author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. ... This article is about the 1818 novel. ... For other uses, see Alchemy (disambiguation). ... The concept of a homunculus (Latin for little man, sometimes spelled homonculus, plural homunculi) is often used to illustrate the functioning of a system. ...


The Golem in the Czech Republic

The Golem is a popular figure in the Czech Republic. There are several restaurants and other businesses named after him. Strongman René Richter goes by the nickname "Golem", and a Czech monster truck outfit calls itself the "Golem Team". [citation needed] In the 19th century, the term strongman refers to an exhibitor of strength (before strength sports were codified into weightlifting, powerlifting etc. ... 2005 Bigfoot monster truck racing in Arizona A monster truck is an automobile, typically a pickup truck, which has been modified or purposely built with extremely large wheels and suspension. ...


The Golem had a main role in the 1951 Czech movie Císařův pekař a pekařův císař (released in the US as The Emperor and the Golem). Císařův pekaÅ™ a pekařův císaÅ™ (U.S. title The Emperor and the Golem) is a Czech two parted historical comedy, produced in 1951. ...


In modern culture

For more stories and characters named "Golem" see Golem (disambiguation) and Category:Fictional golems
Paul Wegener as golem in Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (1920)

The golem concept has found its way into a wide variety of books, comic books, films, television shows, and games. This use covers a wide range, from "golem" used as an umbrella term to refer to automata and simulacra made of anything from steel to flesh, via clay monsters called golems, to full adoptions of the golem mythos. A golem, in medieval folklore and Jewish mythology, is an animated being crafted from inanimate material. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Paul Wegener (born December 11, 1874 in Arnoldsdorf (Westpreußen; now Jarantowice, Poland); died September 13, 1948 in Berlin) was a German actor and film director. ... 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday. ... An umbrella term is a word that provides a superset or grouping of related concepts, also called a hypernym. ... An automaton (plural: automata) is a self-operating machine. ... A simulacrum is a Latin word originally meaning a material object representing something (such as an idol representing a deity, or a painted still-life of a bowl of fruit). ...


These are some notable contemporary uses of the golem mythos:

  • Also inspired in part by the story of the Golem of Prague, Ted Chiang wrote a short story Seventy-Two Letters which explores the role of language in the creation of golems. The story won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2000. It can be found in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others.
  • The first trilogy of movies about Rabbi Judah Loew and his golem were Der Golem (1915), the Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917), and Der Golem, wie er in die welt kam (1920) Directed by Paul Wegener. Only the last film, which is a prequel, has survived, though stills exist of the earlier films. This Golem is the main subject of the British film "It!", Gold Star Productions Limited (1966), staring Roddy McDowell as Arthur Pimm, who evokes (brings to life) the Golem.
    Alan Sellers as the Golem of Prague in the 1966 film "It!"
  • Edward Einhorn's Golem Stories appearing in his book of plays entitled The Golem, Methuselah, and Shylock includes a golem that has the soul of a young man who was the fiance of the Rabbi's daughter.
  • In the computer game Diablo II, the necromancer character can summon four kinds of golems. The traditional clay golem, a blood golem which shares hit points and mana with its creator, an iron golem summoned from metal items, or a fire golem which inflicts fire damage on surrounding enemies.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by Michael Chabon. ... A Calculus of Angels is the second book in Gregory Keyes Age of Unreason series. ... Foucaults Pendulum (original title: Il pendolo di Foucault) is a novel by Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Pete Hamill Pete Hamill (born June 24, 1935) is a prominent American journalist, novelist, and short story writer. ... Ted Chiang Ted Chiang (born 1967) is an American science fiction writer. ... The Sidewise Award for Alternate history was established in 1995 to recognize the best alternate history stories and novels of the year. ... Paul Wegener (born December 11, 1874 in Arnoldsdorf (Westpreußen; now Jarantowice, Poland); died September 13, 1948 in Berlin) was a German actor and film director. ... A prequel is a work that portrays events which include the structure, conventions, and/or characters of a previously completed narrative, but occur at an earlier time. ... Year 1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display full calendar) of the 1966 Gregorian calendar. ... Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall (September 17, 1928–October 3, 1998) was a British actor. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (583x1183, 160 KB) User:Drboisclair I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (583x1183, 160 KB) User:Drboisclair I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Diablo II, sequel to the popular game Diablo, is a dark fantasy-themed action role-playing game in a hack and slash or Dungeon Roaming style. ... Necromancy is divination by raising the spirits of the dead. ... Mana is a traditional term that refers to a concept among the speakers of Oceanic languages, including Melanesians, Polynesians, and Micronesians. ...

Literature

Bilski, Emily B. (1988). Golem! Danger, Deliverance and Art. New York: The Jewish Museum. ISBN 8-7334-0493-0. 


Dennis, Geoffrey (2007). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 0-7387-0905-0. 


Winkler, Gershon (1980). The Golem of Prague: A New Adaptation of the Documented Stories of the Golem of Prague. New York: Judaica Press. ISBN 0-9108-1825-8. 


Goldsmith, Arnold L. (1981). The Golem Remembered 1909-1980: Variations of a Jewish Legend. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-16832-8. 


Idel, Mosche (1990). Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. Albany (NY): State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0160-X. 


Pratchett, Terry (1996). Feet of Clay. Discworld: HarperCollins (US) and Transworld (UK). 

  • Several works by Byron Sherwin

Byron Sherwin is a Jewish scholar and author with expertise in theology, inter-religious dialogue, mysticism and Jewish ethics. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
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Background on the Golem Legends (2239 words)
The best-known of the golem stories concerned a Rabbi Löw of 16th-century Prague, who was said to have created a golem that he used as his servant.
According to Leivick's stage directions, he visualized the golem as a giant with a fl curly beard, a dull stare and a fixed smile that was somehow on the verge of tears.
Bloch, Hayim, The Golem; Legends of the Ghetto of Prague.
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