Monday, December 28, 2009

The Golem, picture from Paul Wegener's 1920 silent film, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam

"After saying certain prayers and observing certain fast days, the Polish Jews make the figure of a man from clay or mud, and when they pronounce the miraculous Shemhamphoras [the powerful seventy-two syllable name of God] over him, he must come to life. He cannot speak, but he understands fairly well what is said or commanded. They call him golem and use him as a servant to do all sorts of housework. But he must never leave the house. On his forehead is written 'emeth.'[truth] Everyday he gains weight and becomes somewhat larger and stronger than all the others in the house, regardless of how little he was to begin with. For fear of him, they therefore erase the letter, so that nothing remains but 'meth,'[death] whereupon he collapses and turns to clay again. But one man's golem once grew so tall, and he heedlessly let him keep on growing so long, that he could no longer reach his forehead. In terror he ordered the servant to take off his boots, thinking that when he bent down he could reach his forehead. So it happened, and the first letter was successfully erased, but the whole heap of clay fell on the Jew and crushed him."-Jakob Grimm, Journal for Hermits, 1808

Gershom Scholem tells us that Adam was termed a golem in the Talmud on the first day in the second hour when he was an unformed mass and before the soul, neshamah entered him and before he named the animals. Scholem also states in his book On The Kabballah And Its Symbolism, that a midrash [(pl. Midrashim); containing extra-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point.] from the second or third century describes Adam in this state "not only as a golem, but as a golem of cosmic size and strength, to whom, while he was still in this speechless and inanimate state, God showed all future generations to the end of time." Scholem further describes a fragment of the lost Midrash Abkir, which describes God as waiting until Creation was finished before providing the "golem, in whom the whole force of the universe is contained" with a soul so none could presume He had a companion during the Making of the World. I think that if this story is true, the Lord was wise in so doing; a man with a soul would do more than witness such great acts. He would experience too fully and would know too much and feel too much. The water would be driven from the clay and the body would fall apart. But if it didn't, man would be unleashed with the power of God.

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