Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day LXIV - Golem


Animated clay,
Brought to life by a rabbi,
Defender of Jews.


The Frankenstein's Monster of Jewish folklore, a Golem is a slab of inanimate matter - either rock, mud or clay - brought to life through the mystical manipulation of a wise rabbi. Great hulking beings of huge strength, Golems are crafted to protect the Jewish communities of Europe from anti-Semitic attacks or perform tasks for their master creator. Once they've moulded the humanoid form, the rabbi usually animates the Golem by performing a magic ritual, drawing on God's sacred name or inscribing the word "אתם" ("emet", 'truth') on the creature's forehead. By erasing the "א" the Hebrew word for 'dead' is spelled out and the creation is promptly deactivated and rendered as lifeless matter once more. Despite being heroic defenders of persecuted Jews, Golems are at a disadvantage in that they generally lack intelligence, are unable to speak and have a tendency to turn recklessly violent. The legendary folklore figure has inspired many stories across the ages and the most well-known tale revolves around the Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezazel and his raising of a Golem in 16th-century Prague. This narrative served as the basis for the brilliant 1920 movie Der Golem which ranks as absolute stone-cold classic of German Expressionist cinema. An icon of Judaism and imagination-captivating homunculus hero, quite frankly, I think the Golem rocks.

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