Leopold Weisel

Der Golem

(1847)


Leopold Weisel - Der Golem 1

Leopold Weisel - Der Golem 2


SOURCE: Weisel, Leopold. “Der Golem” (1847), in Sippurim, eine sammlung jüdischer volkssagen, erzählungen, mythen, chroniken, denkwürdigkeiten und biographieen berühmter Juden aller jahrhunderte, insbesondere des mittelalters, by Wolf Pascheles (J. B. Brandeis, 1883; orig. Prague, c. 1854), pp. 51-52.


The following is apparently a translation of the second paragraph of “Der Golem,” found in Dekel and Gantt (see below), p. 245.

In the reign of Rudolph II among the Prague Jews lived a man named Bezalel Loew, known, because of his tall stature and great learning, as high Rabbi Loew. This rabbi was highly skilled in all the arts and sciences, especially in the Kabbalah. By means of this art he was able to bring to life figures, formed of clay or carved from wood, that, like real men, did what was assigned to them. Such self-made servants are worth much: they do not eat, they do not drink and do not need wages; they work tirelessly, you can scold them and they give no answer. The Rabbi Loew had formed such a servant out of clay, laid the Shem (magic formula) in its mouth, and brought him to life with it. This constructed servant performed all the menial duties in the house throughout the week: chopping wood, carrying water, sweeping the streets, etc. But on the Sabbath he had to rest, therefore, the master took the Shem from his mouth and made him dead before the rest day arrived. But once it happened that the rabbi forgot to do this and misfortune followed. The magic servant became enraged, tore down the houses, threw rocks around, uprooted trees, and thrashed about horribly in the streets. People rushed to let the rabbi know about this, but the difficulty was great; it was already the Sabbath, and any work, whether creating or destroying, is strictly prohibited, so how to undo the magic? To the rabbi, his Golem was like the broom to the sorcerer’s apprentice in Goethe’s poem. Fortunately no one had yet inaugurated the Sabbath in the Altneu-Synagogue, and since this is the oldest synagogue in Prague, everything depends on it, and there was still time to take the Shem from the wild fellow. The master ran, tore the magic formula from the mouth of the Golem—the clay lump fell and crumbled to pieces. Terrified by this scene, the rabbi no longer wanted to make such a dangerous servant. Even today, pieces of the Golem can be seen in the attic of the Altneu-Synagogue.

Gelbin (GHI lecture, 20 May 2021) claims that Weisel was the first to link the golem and the automaton. Neubauer (see below) quotes this passage from Weisel (p. 305):

In our enlightened age, in which people deny all wonders or try to explain them naturally, the legend of Rabbi Löw has also been explained naturally. For the High Rabbi was a skilled technician, who prepared an automaton, the golem, for himself. People want to ascribe him the invention of the camera obscura, whereby he deceived the Emperor. In sum, the High Rabbi was a conjurer. (52)


Supplementary bibliography & links:

Ambros, Veronika. “How Did the Golems (and Robots) Enter Stage and Screen and Leave Prague?”, in History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Vol. IV: Types and Stereotypes, edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer (Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010), pp. 308-320.

Barzilai, Maya. Golem: Modern Wars and Their Monsters. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

Bertman, Stephen. “The Role of the Golem in the Making of Frankenstein,” The Keats-Shelley Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, April 2015, pp. 42-50.

Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Golem” (El Golem, 1964, in El otro, el mismo). Several translations online, including by:

Juan Ribó Chalmeta & Irina Urumova, with original
James Honzik
Alan S. Trueblood
Frank Thomas Smith

Dekel, Edan; Gurley, David Gantt. “How the Golem Came to Prague,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 2, Spring 2013, pp. 241-258.  Weisel: pp. 244-247, & influence, passim.

Gelbin, Cathy S. The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture, 1808-2008 (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2011), pp. 51-54. Introduction (full text).

Golem: From Mysticism to Minecraft, Jüdische Museum Berlin / Jewish Museum Berlin.

Golem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Kieval, Hillel J. Golem Legend, YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, 2010.

Kieval, Hillel J.; Polakovič, Daniel. Weisel, Leopold, YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, 2010.

Neubauer, John. “How Did the Golem Get to Prague?”, in History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Vol. IV: Types and Stereotypes, edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer (Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010), pp. 296-307.

Scholem, Gershom. “The Golem of Prague & The Golem of Rehovoth” (June 17, 1965), Commentary, January 1966.

Wiener, Norbert. God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964.


Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), 1920-2020

Cybernetics & Artificial Intelligence: Ideology Critique

On Stanislaw Lem’s “Golem XIV”

Ars Combinatoria Study Guide

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress


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Uploaded 21 May 2021
English translation & Gelbin link
added 26 May 2021
Quote & references added 28 May 2021

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