What is the origin of the Golem story?

Q. What is the origin of the Golem story?

A. The Talmud tells us: that Rava created a man through the Sefer Yetzirah and sent him to Rabbi Zeira. The latter tried speaking to him and when there was no response (because the power of speech, a function of the soul, is limited to God’s creation) he declared: “You are a product of our colleague. Return to your dust!” (Sanhedrin 65b)

This is not the only anecdote; there are other stories from Jewish folklore that resemble the golem created by Rava. .

When Ben Sira was about to begin to study the Book of Yezirah {an ancient Jewish mystical text going back to the 2nd century), he heard a Heavenly voice proclaiming ” You cannot not do it alone.” He went to his father and they studied it together. At the end of three years a man was created by them. On the golem’s forehead was written the Hebrew word “Emet” (truth). The man thus created said to them: “When God created Adam, and when He decided that he should die, He erased the letter Alef from the word Emet, and when Adam was dead [pronounced as Mate]. I greatly desire that you should do the same to me, and that ye never again create a man, that the world go not astray through him like the generation of Enosh” The man they created further said to them: “Transpose the order of the letters [by means of which he was created], and erase the Alef [“A”] from the wood Emet on my forehead.” They did so, and he immediately turned to dust.

The most famous Golem of all was the Golem said to be created by Rabbi Yehuda Lowe (a.k.a. the Maharal of Prague). There are so many legends about the Golem that a special statue was made in his memory which can still be seen standing in the city of Prague.

Rabbi Dr. Michael Samuel

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