The Golem of Prague

Illustration: Moonbot Studios

Prague, 1588. One of the most famous figures of Jewish mysticism and philosophy, Rabbi Loew, has just arrived in town where he will stay for the rest of his life: he’s already 66 years old. He nevertheless plays an important role in the affairs of his time, and is widely followed.

The Jewish ghetto of Prague yet experiences cultural explosion and welcomes intellectuals from everywhere. However, it is home to many pogroms, violent demonstrations aimed at persecuting the Jewish community, based on false accusations. Rabbi Loew is extremely concerned about how to keep his community safe and looks for a solution day and night.

One of these nights, as he finally falls asleep, Rabbi Loew is visited by God in a dream to advise him to build a Golem out of clay, who would act as the mighty guardian of his people. The following day, Rabbi Loew heads to the banks of the Moldau River to accomplish the word of his Lord. After erecting a human-shaped figure out of clay, he recites verses and turns around the immobile statue several times.

(Witchcraft in progress…)

Source: Wikipedia

“… and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Towards the end of the ritual, the statue turns bright red and comes to life. For the creature to obey his master, a piece of parchment on which the name of God is written is placed into his mouth, and the name “amet” (truth) is drawn on his forehead. Whenever the parchment is taken out, the golem remains still as if life had left his man-made body of clay.

The Golem is named Joseph, and soon proves to be very helpful: riots progressively calm down and cease. The only day Joseph does not work (because creatures magically created also deserve a break from time to time) is on Shabbat.

However, one week, it happens that Rabbi Loew forgets to remove the paper from his mouth on that very day, thus breaking the divine laws: Joseph turns incontrollable and hurts anybody on his way.

Rabbi Loew is singing Psalm 92 at the synagogue when he’s warned about Golem’s deeds: he immediately rushes to the hysteric creature in order to stop him. He does so by wiping off the first letter of the word “amet” written on his forehead, which becomes “met” (death). Then, the Golem freezes and falls apart, turned back into clay. He would remain hidden in the attic of the synagogue so that nobody could again turn him back to life.

The Golem is even featured in the Sherlock series ep. “The Great Game” (Source: BasementRejects)

Rabbi Loew came back at the synagogue to finish the ceremony where it was interrupted. Since then, Psalm 92 is always sung twice at Prague’s Old-New Synagogue… and the entrance of the attic is strictly forbidden.


Author: Nicolas

Ingrédients : 33% d'anecdotes insolites, 19% de livres poussiéreux, le reste de curiosité névrosée. Auteur du Petit dictionnaire des sales boulots (Vendémiaire, 2022). Chroniqueur chez Slate et RetroNews.

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