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December 09, 1983 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-12-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16 Friday, December 9, 1983


The Golem Legend

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(Continued from Page 1)
truth of his subject matter.
I confess, therefore, to
being a little surprised at
the liberties Wiesel has
taken in his newly re-
leased version of the
legend of the famous
golem of Prague. This is
not a problem which
should keep anyone from ,
reading The Golem —
The Story of a Legend"
(Summit Books), and I
suspect that multitudes
will find it, as indeed did
I, charming,. diverting
and enchanting.
The problems that arise
here are of interest both to
scholars and laymen,
though. I would gladly ig-
nore them if I could since it's
never comfortable playing
the role of Peck's bad boy
taking on the Jolly Green
Giant, especially in as
esoteric a corn-patch as
Jewish mysticism. We don't
ordinarily think of Wiesel
as jolly, but his version of
the golem is hardly solemn.
Readers familiar with
Gershom Scholem's "The
Idea Of The Golem" in
"Kabala and Its Sym-
bolism" (Schocken Books)
and Arnold L. Goldsmith's
"The Golem Remembered,
1909-1980," published by
Wayne State University
Press in 1981, will, as I
have, readily perceive the
distinctions between the
traditional views of golemin
and Wiesel's departures, to
say nothing of recognizing
his, two primary sources
which remain, curiously, -
under a cloud of suspicion.
The generally accepted
view of golemin, the Prague
golem not excepted, is that


once fashioned of clay, they
are given mobility by the
insertion in their mouths of
a . piece of paper with the
Hebrew word "Shem" writ-
ten on it, or by the Hebrew
word "Ernes" (truth) being
imprinted on their
To return the golem to na-
ture, the "Shem" is re-
moved, or the "E" erased,
leaving the word "Mes,"
meaning corpse. Golemin,
once created, keep on grow-
ing, , become increasingly
truculent, are envious of the
pleasures enjoyed by their
human masters, are in-
clined increasingly toward
violence, and, in time, they
must be destroyed.
Despite the fact that Elie
Wiesel calls his book the
"story of a legend," and re-
duces its reliability by de-
scribing it as having been
handed down orally
through seven generations,
the rendering is nonethe-
less Wiesel's. His golem is
fashioned by a magic hand
and receives neither the
"Shem" nor the "Ernes." He
is described as a gentle,
obedient servant, to whom
people can respond with af-
fection, a kind of over large,
huggable stuffed animal.
Moreover, Wiesel's golem
never grows larger, never
becomes truculent or insol-
ent, and he never turns de-
structively on the Jews of
Prague. When the great
Rabbi Lowe, the Maharal,
determines that the golem's
time has come, the reason
given is that his work is
completed, and not that he
is threatening to destroy the
Jewish ghetto of Prague.
(Continued on Page 17)

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