[Aleph], Mem, Tav

“Legends of the golem, usually sourced as an archetype in Kabbalah, are actually found in Talmud, but may stem from the same magical traditions. According to these stories, sometimes presented as cautionary tales, a rabbi could create a crude, humanoid being, in a travesty of God’s creation. These monsters had no will or intelligence of their own, but could be used as the rabbi desired, against the enemies of the Jews, for instance, or of the rabbi himself.

According to one story, the rabbi would shape the golem out of soil, and then walk or dance around it reciting certain letters from the alphabet and the secret name of God. To de-animate the creature, the rabbi would walk in the opposite direction, saying the same letters and words in reverse order. Another way to bring a golem to life was to write the name of God on parchment and stick it on the golem’s arm or in his mouth. One had merely to remove it to terminate the golem.

Other sources say that once the humanoid creature had been physically shaped, one needed to write the letters alephmemtav, spelling the word EMET, meaning ‘truth’, on the golem’s forehead to bring it to life. In order to destroy the being, it was only necessary to erase the aleph, creating the word MET, or Death.

In Hebrew the word golem means ‘shapeless mass’. The Talmud uses the word to mean ‘unformed’ or ‘imperfect’; Adam is called ‘golem,’ meaning ‘body without a soul’ (Sanhedrin 38b), for the first twelve hours of his existence. A golem has no will of its own; that is the point of it. It carries out instructions – in some versions, these have to be written on rolled up pieces of paper inserted into the creature’s mouth.

It has always been the dream of mankind to be able to create para-human creatures, it would seem, with human capabilities but no soul or will, and therefore no ability to rebel. And there, maybe, is the difference between creator and created. God, according to our theologians, gave us choice, even if the wrong choices might bring damnation. But man, if he replicated himself, would reproduce everything except his own free will.”

[from New Legend of the Golem, 2016]

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