Tuesday, 2 December 2008

GOLEM




The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. Adam is described in the (Tractate Talmud 38b) as initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless hunk". Like Adam, all golems are created from clay. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy person was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person became, however, a being created by that person would be but a shadow of one created by God.

Early on, the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. In Sandhedrin 65b, is the description of Raba creating a golem using the Sefer Yetzerah. He sent the golem to Rav Zeira; Rav Zeira spoke to the golem, but he did not answer. Said Rav Zeira, "I see that you were created by one of our colleagues; return to your dust." It is said that if a golem were made able to speak, that would give it a soul, and — because a golem cannot be made perfectly — that ability could make it very dangerous.

Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the history.

Other attributes of the golem were gradually added over time. In many tales the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing one of the names of God on its forehead, a slip of paper in its mouth, or enscribed on its body, or writing the word Emet (אמת,"truth" in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter aleph in Emet to form Met (מת, "dead" in Hebrew) the golem could be deactivated. Another way is by writing a specific incantation in the owner's blood on calfskin parchment, and placing it in the mouth. Removing the parchment will deactivate the golem. It is likely that this is the same incantation that the Rabbi recites in the classic narrative. Golems also need to rest on the Sabbath lest they go berserk.

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