Be Careful What You Wish For

Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM

Marc Estrin

Oh, Rabbi Löew, be careful what you wish for, and Victor Frankenstein, beware. And you, Herr Doktor Faust, don’t count on a second Rettung.

Storytellers and artists foresee, but the world plays things out. Einstein nailed it: "Three great forces rule the world," he said, "stupidity, fear and greed."

Fritz Ascher captured those forces in 1916. His foreground translates Einstein’s trio into the hands and faces of:

—terminal Fear,

—expiring Wisdom,

—and desperately grasping Greed.

And, rising above them, looming over the toxic miasma, their collective golem.

"Thou shalt not pass!" say its arms, "I will kill!" say its eyes, and "darkest night" says its cloak. "No moon or stars for you. Nur die Nacht."

Behind this apocalyptic gang of four stands their salient element: a wall, a fortress—or shall we call it a Trennungszaun?—perhaps the most iconically prescient part of Ascher’s vision. And stupidity, fear and greed have different faces now, smoother, white-haired, silver-tongued. But Ascher’s wall still evokes … the wall.

Benjamin Netanyahu: "Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts."

Hear O Israel: hear this latest misguided, misguiding, misstepping "rabbi" protecting his community unto its death.

Will Judaism survive its current golem?

Marc Estrin is a novelist, cellist and political activist who lives in the US. His novel Golem Song was published in 2006 and tells the story of Alan Krieger who manages it to make a Golem out of his very self.

Expressionist oil painting showing the golem and three other figures. In the background, one can see a narrow alley.

The Golem
Fritz Ascher, 1916
Oil on canvas, 182.5 x 140.5 cm
Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Hermann Kiessling

Citation recommendation:

Marc Estrin (2016), Be Careful What You Wish For. Article in the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM.

Golem as action figure (detail)

Online Edition of the GOLEM Catalog: Table of Contents

The Golem in Berlin: Introduction by Peter Schäfer
Chapter 1
The Golem Lives On: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
My Light is Your Life: Text by Anna Dorothea Ludewig
Avatars: Text by Louisa Hall
The Secret of the Cyborgs: Text by Caspar Battegay
Chapter 2
Jewish Mysticism: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem Magic: Text by Martina Lüdicke
Golem, Language, Dada: Text by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 3
Transformation: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Jana Sterbak’s Golem: Objects as Sensations: Text by Rita Kersting
Crisálidas (Chrysalises): Text by Jorge Gil
Rituals: Text by Christopher Lyon
A Golem that Ended Well: Text by Emily D. Bilski
On the Golem: Text by David Musgrave
Louise Fishman’s Paint Golem: Text by Emily D. Bilski
Chapter 4
Legendary Prague: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem Variations: Text by Peter Schäfer
Rabbi Loew’s Well-Deserved Bath: Text by Harold Gabriel Weisz Carrington
Chapter 5
Horror and Magic: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
Golem and a Little Girl: Text by Helene Wecker
The Golem with a Group of Children Dancing: Text by Karin Harrasser
Bringing the Film Set To Life: Text by Anna-Carolin Augustin
Golem and Mirjam: Text by Cathy S. Gelbin
Chapter 6
Out of Control: Introduction by Emily D. Bilski
Golem—Man Awakened with Glowing Hammer: Text by Arno Pařík
Dangerous Symbols: Text by Charlotta Kotik
Current page: Be Careful What You Wish For: Text by Marc Estrin
Chapter 7
Doppelgänger: Introduction by Martina Lüdicke
From the Golem-Talmud: Text by Joshua Cohen
Kitaj’s Art Golem: Text by Tracy Bartley
The Golem as Techno-Imagination?: Text by Cosima Wagner
See also
GOLEM: 2016, online edition with selected texts of the exhibition catalog
GOLEM: 2016, complete printed edition of the exhibition catalog, in German
Golem. From Mysticism to Minecraft: Online Feature, 2016
GOLEM: Exhibition, 23 Sep 2016 to 29 Jan 2017

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