A golem is a creature formed out of a lifeless substance such as dust or earth that is brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew letters. The golem, brought into being by a human creator, becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of an imperiled Jewish community. In many golem stories, the creature runs amok and the golem itself becomes a threat to its creator.

The best-known version of the golem legend takes place in Prague and revolves around the studious Rabbi Loew. The first practical instructions on creating a golem can be found in medieval commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation). Originally, creating a golem was a way for medieval Jewish mystics to come closer to God.

Central to the golem legend is the human desire to create, together with a range of themes including creativity, control, power, and salvation. The golem also symbolizes each era's dreaded dangers and hopes for redemption.

Black and white lithography of a louring face

Hugo Steiner-Prag, The Golem – Prague Fantasies, 1916; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

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