The Golem of Prague

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In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (specifically clay or mud).

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, also known as the Maharal, who reportedly created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from antisemitic attacks.

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Depending on the version of the legend, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. To protect the Jewish community, the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations.

The Golem was called Josef and was known as Yossele. It was said that he could make himself invisible and summon spirits from the dead. 

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The Golem’s body was stored in the attic genizah of the Old New Synagogue, where it would be restored to life again if needed. According to legend, the body of Rabbi Loew’s Golem still lies in the synagogue’s attic.

A recent legend tells of a Nazi agent ascending to the synagogue attic during World War II and trying to stab the Golem, but he died instead.

The Hebrew letters on the creature’s head read “emet”, meaning “truth”. In some versions of the Chełm and Prague narratives, the Golem is killed by removing the first letter, making the word spell “met”, meaning “dead”.


Source. Authors of the paintings unknown.