THE GOLEM

52”x40” Oil on Canvas/Wood 2006

The legend of the Golem embodies our universal yearning to be rescued from persecution and destruction through supernatural forces. The story of the Golem has inspired artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians; even the story of Frankenstein and the Superhero comics reflect this theme.

There are many stories about the creation of a Golem, but the most enduring is that of the Golem of Prague, said to have been created by Rabbi Judah Loew (the Maharal) in 1580, during a desperate time for the Jews of that area.

In 1559, all Hebrew books in Prague were seized and examined for anti-Christian references. Jews were persecuted, ordered to wear yellow badges and forced to listen to Christian sermons denigrating their faith. Copies of the Talmud were burned, and murderous pogroms, fueled by blood libels, were frequent.

Rabbi Loew was a great scholar and mystic, immersed in the study of the medieval Zohar, the central text of Kabbalah, and in the ancient Book of Creation, (Sefer Yetzirah). He, with two of his followers, fashioned the Golem with clay from the banks of the Moldau river bank, using certain Kabbalistic formulas passed to him in a dream. When Rabbi Loew placed a parchment with the Divine Name in the mouth of the clay figure, the Golem came to life.

The clay effigy of the Golem, according to legend, was hidden away in the attic of Rabbi Loew’s synagogue where visitors, many centuries later, claimed that the outline of the giant form could still be seen.

The Hebrew words, Emet (truth) and Met (death) are painted on the lower canvas. Rabbi Loeb inscribed “Emet” on the forehead of the Golem. When the Golem’s mission of protecting the Jews of Prague was completed, the Rabbi retreived the parchment with the Divine Name, and erased the first letter of the word “truth” which then became the word “death”. With that gesture, the Golem returned to lifeless clay.

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