Monday, 12 October 2015

The Destruction of the Golem

 Statue of Rabbi Loew, Prague

In a previous post I told of the Golem's creation, but the story does not end there.

For a while the Golem performed his duty well, patrolling the Jewish ghetto and protecting its inhabitants from attack. And then something changed - the different versions of the story vary as to why Rabbi Loew destroyed his creation. 
In one version it is said that the Golem ran amok because of unrequited love. In another the Rabbi fails or forgets to neutralize the Golem on the Sabbath as instructed. Or simply the danger was passed and that the Golem was no longer required. But the time had come for the Rabbi to undo what he had made. There are two ways of disabling a golem - the first is to remove the paper from the golem's mouth, thus taking away the gift of the true name of God, and the second is to change the word that is written in the clay of the golem's forehead, “emet” truth, deleting the first letter to form the hebrew word for death, “met”.

It is said that the Golem lies in the attic of Prague's Old New Synagogue, waiting a time when another holy man will place the true name of God into his mouth. At such a time he will rise and become once more the protector of the oppressed. There is even an Indiana Jones-style tale that Nazi soldiers broke into the attic and were destroyed. But therein lies the true sadness of the story. When the Jewish community of Prague faced its greatest danger, the Golem did not rise.

I have no doubt that the Golem has a similar appeal to the Czech psyche. For any nation that has been oppressed as the Czechs have been, the legend of a superhuman being rising to defeat your enemies is bound to appeal. The Golem has the added value of being a superhuman underdog. The Golem is there alongside King Wenceslas waiting in a hollow hill with his sleeping knights or the drum made of Jan Zizka's skin. All three are symbols of the Czech nation’s hope for freedom.

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