11 May 2009

The Return of the Golem

There was a fascinating feature piece in the New York Times this morning about the return of the famous Golem of Prague. The Golem, of course, has a long history with Temple Sholom - the story goes that in the middle of the night, Rabbi Goldman would take the Confirmation class (and even the adult Confirmation class, when they went) to the cemetery in Prague and tell them the story of the Golem. For the three or four years that I took the Confirmation class went to Prague, we would also tell them this story. Invariably, a number of the members of the class would ask if they could climb up the ladder (pictured in the photo to the left, behond the Confirmation class of 2006) to the attic of the Altneuschul, where the Golem is rumored to be stored. Since they all survived, you can guess that we didn't let them. Although I love the Golem story (which many claim is the origin of the idea of robots, via Capek's classic story RUR), my favorite story about the Golem's creator, Rabbi Judah Loew (known in Jewish circles by the acronym the Maharal) is related to his statue near the town hall, where a bearded and wise old Rabbi studying his texts has a naked woman with a rose clinging to him. Supposedly, the woman is the angel of death in diguise, seeking to distract the Maharal from his study, so he will be vulnerable to death. Not many places you can see a statue of a Rabbi in a world capital.

There is also an article from JTA about Rabbi Loew's 400th anniversary and the Golem. In it they quote one of the leaders of Prague's Progressive Jewish community, Peter Gyori, who was in school at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles at the same time as Michelle and I.