Friday, April 3, 2015

Golem of Vilna - Yiddish Folklore

Lithuania, one of the three Baltic countries, has its capital of Vilna in its southern lands. And in those lands and its capital, once lived a famous Rabbi Elijah, better known as the Vilna Gaon. He was the creator of this city’s golem, taking us to its legend.

In the 18th century, in the city of Lithuania, lived a smart rabbi of Jewish people, who created Golem. Out of clay, he created a figure. As he was a scholar of great knowledge, who knew the five Books of Moses by heart and the secrets of the Cabala, he also knew the words to put on a piece of paper and attach it to Golem’s ear. This way giving life to Golem in order to help his people with providing fish for the Sabbath.
“Golem, I need you to go to the river and trap the fish into a net. Once out of the water, distribute the fish to the Jews,” commanded the Rabbi. And that’s what golem did.

There were times, when Jews were not allowed to observe their holidays in peace and for such occasions, the Rabbi would use golem for different reasons.
“Defend the Jews,” the Rabbi would command.
Golem was of great strength, but as he was not a creature of God, he could not think. With his strong arms he would defend his people by breaking the bones and skulls of the opponents. Nobody in its way would escape him and nobody would escape him alive. Such news reached the governor, who demanded the Rabbi to appear in front of him at once.
“Once the Golem is gone, will we be allowed to celebrate our holidays in peace? asked the Rabbi.
“You have my word,” promised the governor.
Since all the buckets were filled with fish and the Rabbi had the governor’s word, he removed the piece of paper from Golem’s ear. Golem turned into a pile of clay at which the Rabbi looked and said, “I hope there is not another day, when another Golem has to be created to protect its people.”

Note: Other Golem versions: Golem of Prague (February post) and Golem of Chelm (March post)

Source: The Golem of Vilna, Yiddish Folktales by Pantheon.

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