Jewish Town and Synagogues: The Golem in the Attic

The Golem in the Attic
For some reason, people love scary stories. Creepy tales about monsters and witches and creatures lurking in the dark seem to be part of every culture. The Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness monster, Dracula, Baba Yaga, the Headless Horseman, Frankenstein – these are just a few that come to mind.

The Golem of Prague is one of these creatures. “Golem” means unformed in Hebrew. According to the legend, Rabbi Judah Loew (1520-1609), known by the Hebrew initials of his name as the “Maharal of Prague,” created a Frankenstein-like man that performed tasks for him. The Golem was a lump of clay that came alive when the name of God (the “Shem”) was inscribed on its forehead. Because all creatures are meant to rest on the Sabbath, Rabbi Loew turned the Golem back into clay every Friday afternoon by erasing the sacred letters on its brow.

One Friday he forgot. Towards evening, the Jews of Prague assembled for services at the Altneuschul (“Old-New Synagogue”) in the Jewish Quarter. Just as they finished reciting Psalm 92, a hymn welcoming the Sabbath, the Golem ran amok, threatening everything in its path. Rabbi Loew was summoned. The sun had not yet set, so technically, the
Sabbath had not begun. The rabbi confronted the monster he had made and wiped the letters off its forehead. The Golem crumbled to dust. The rabbi then ordered Psalm 92 to be sung a second time, which has been the custom in this synagogue ever since.

The Maharal never brought the Golem back to life again. He buried the remains in the attic of the synagogue – a strange looking Hansel and Gretel house with a brown pointy roof - where they lie to this day.

  • Phone: +420-224 819 456
  • Directions: The Altneuschul is on a winding lane in the old Jewish Quarter, next to the Burial Society building and the Old Jewish Cemetery.




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