Rabbi Lowe and the Golem of Prague In the Old Jewish Cemetery is the gravestone of the revered Judah Loew ben Bezalel ben Chaim, Rabbi Loew (1520-1609), who convinced Rudolf II in 1592 to offer better protection to the city’s Jews. The rabbi was a friend of the well-known astronomer …Read More »
There are apparently several golem stories in Jewish folklore. Here is one of them. The story is set in Prague in the 16th Century. The Jewish community is threatened by blood libels -claims that they were murdering Christian children and using their blood to make matzo (actually, Jewish law strictly forbids the consumption of any blood at all). A Christian who murdered a child and planted it in a Jew’s house could report the Jew. The Jew would be executed and his property would be split between the Christian who reported him and the government. Clearly the ghetto needed a very good watchman.
Rabbi Judah Loew used information from the Kabalah – the central book of Jewish mysticism – to learn the formula by which God first made man out of clay, and with the help of two other pious men built a man out of clay and brought him to life. The final step of this process was to place God’s secret name on a parchment and place it in the forehead of the golem.
Loew’s golem was between seven and a half and nine feet tall, and had tremendous strength, but it had a very placid and passive disposition when not under orders to act otherwise. He also lacked the one faculty that only God can give, the power of speech. Because this giant was passive and mute, people in the ghetto assumed he was half-witted and the word ‘golem’ has also come to mean ‘idiot’.
At night the golem guarded the ghetto, catching all would-be libellers red-handed. He single-handedly ended the possibility of successfully blood libelling the Jewish community. Loew then got the Emperor to end the practice of letting blood libellers profit from their actions. When the golem was no longer needed, Loew removed the parchment, returning the golem to being a statue, and the statue was laid to rest in the attic of the synagogue.