The Lost Golem
by Mel Waldman
|Act 2 of 3|
Act 2, scene 1
A sprawling photo of the Old New Synagogue (Altneuschul) of Prague stretches across the back stage. Rabbi Samuel Levy and David Goldstein sit on a bench outside the imaginary synagogue and face the audience. In the distance, a makeshift full moon illuminates Prague and the Old New Synagogue. It is midnight and the universe is lit up.
[Rabbi Levy] In your studies, did you ever read about Rabbi Judah Loew, the Maharal of Prague?
[David Goldstein] No.
[Rabbi L.] Or the Golem of Prague?
[David G.] No. (David pauses.) And what is a golem?
[Rabbi L.] A wonderful question, David. Yes, what is a golem? In ancient times, a golem was a creation... a metamorphosis from mud to a human-like creature.
[David G.] How was this possible?
[Rabbi L.] A holy person applied the mystical powers of the Kabbalah and, using G-d’s special name, created the golem from the ground.
[David G.] And this creature, this human-like creature, was alive?
[Rabbi L.] Yes. Like Adam, he was created from the ground. The golem appeared to be human. But it lacked a personality and a real mind.
[David G.] Why?
[Rabbi L.] Even holy men could not create perfect beings. Only Hashem is omnipotent! Only He can create such perfect beings.
[David G.] Yet it seems to me that humans are often imperfect, too.
[Rabbi L.] Hashem gave us free will. We can choose good or evil. Our actions bring us closer to or farther away from G-d. When we sin, we move away from Hashem and manifest our earthly imperfections. When we do a good deed — a mitzvah — we move closer to G-d and manifest divine perfection.
[David G.] I need time to digest your wisdom, rabbi. You see, I have many doubts... I even question whether we humans have free will. Are we really free or are we obsessed, compelled and driven to act? Yes, I have my doubts, rabbi. But please... tell me more about the golem.
[Rabbi L.] Not only did the golem lack a personality and a real mind... but it also was unable to speak.
[David G.] Why, rabbi?
[Rabbi L.] If a golem spoke, it would have possessed a soul. And if it possessed a soul, this creature would have been extremely dangerous!
[David G.] So what did the golem do?
[Rabbi L.] It followed directions. And in most cases, it was obedient.
[David G.] And in the other cases?
[Rabbi L.] It was a rebel, out of control and violent!
[David G.] How could a holy person create a violent being?
[Rabbi L.] It does sound like a contradiction, David.
[David G.] Rabbi, it is incomprehensible!
[Rabbi L.] Nevertheless, it happened. And sometimes, the golem’s violent nature meant salvation rather than death.
[David G.] I do not understand.
[Rabbi L.] Soon, I will explain, David. But in the meantime, I need to tell you one more frightening fact.
[David G.] Yes, rabbi?
[Rabbi L.] Sometimes the golem’s violence was directed toward its creator.
[David G.] Why, rabbi?
[Rabbi L.] I don’t know, David. It happened. One more mystery among the sundry mysteries of Hashem’s universe.
[David G.] There is so much I do not understand.
[Rabbi L.] Yes, so much remains unfathomable. (There is a long silence.) And now, I need to tell you about the Golem of Prague.
[David G.] Why, rabbi?
[Rabbi L.] Because I must!
Act 2, scene 2
Rabbi Samuel Levy and David Goldstein sit on a bench outside the imaginary synagogue and face the audience. Hours have passed but it seems like only a few seconds to Rabbi Levy and David. Time is a Magus! It feeds humans illusion! In the distance, a makeshift golden sun rises, illuminating Prague and the Old New Synagogue. It is dawn and the universe is lit up.
[Rabbi Levy] David, it si time to tell you about Rabbi Judah Loew, the Maharal of Prague.
[David Goldstein] The Maharal?
[Rabbi L.] Yes, He was and is the Maharal which means Our Teacher the Rabbi Loew. And he created a golem.
[David G.] Why?
[Rabbi L.] To defend the Prague ghetto of Josefov. You see, David, there were anti-Semitic attacks incited by the emperor’s edict for Jews in Prague to be expelled or killed. By creating the Golem of Prague, Rabbi Loew hoped to protect the Jewish community.
[David G.] And how did Rabbi Loew create the golem?
[Rabbi L.] David, I’ve already talked to you about golems and how they were and are created.
[David G.] Rabbi, I need to know more! Please, I need to understand!
[Rabbi L.] I cannot reveal all the secrets!
[David G.] Only some, Rabbi Levy. Only some...
[Rabbi L.] According to legend, Rabbi Loew went to the banks of the Vltava river in Prague. He took clay from the banks and created the golem.
[David G.] But how?
[Rabbi L.] He followed the secret rituals necessary for creating a golem. After building his golem, he recited special incantations...
[David G.] In what language, rabbi?
[Rabbi L.] Hebrew, of course. And then... the golem came to life. (Rabbi Levy stops talking. He stands up and walks toward the audience. He seems to be in a trance.)
[David G.] Rabbi, what happened next?
[Rabbi L.] (still apparently in a trance but able to respond to questions): The golem grew bigger. And then... he killed Gentiles. As fear spread in Prague among the non-Jews, the emperor begged Rabbi Loew to destroy the violent being, promising to end the persecution of the Jews.
After the emperor vowed to end the violence, Rabbi Loew agreed to destroy the golem. But he told the emperor that the golem could be brought back to life if needed again.
[David G.] How did Rabbi Loew destroy the golem?
[Rabbi L.] On the golem’s forehead, the Hebrew word EMET, G-d’s truth, was inscribed.
[David G.] EMET?
[Rabbi L.] Yes.
[David G.] But that is...
[Rabbi L.] The inscription on the stranger’s forehead.
[David G.] Is he a golem?
[Rabbi L.] Perhaps. But let me continue. Rabbi Loew rubbed out the first letter of this holy word from the golem’s forehead. Thus, he made the Hebrew word MET, which means death.
[David G.] And the golem died?
[Rabbi L.] Yes, he ceased to be.
[David G.] What happened to this alien being that saved the Jews of Prague?
[Rabbi L.] His remains were stored in a coffin in the attic in the Old New Synagogue.
[David G.] And now... where are the remains?
(Rabbi Levy does not respond to David’s question. He speaks to the audience.)
[Rabbi L.] The golem can be brought back to life if needed! Yes, the golem can be brought back to life if needed!
Act 2, scene 3
A sprawling photo of the Old New Synagogue (Altneuschul) of Prague stretches across the backstage. A Nazi Storm Trooper (member of the SA Sturmabteilung Storm Troops) during WWII, wearing a Nazi uniform with a brown shirt, climbs a makeshift staircase leading to the attic of the Old New Synagogue. In his right hand, he holds a long sleek knife.
David Goldstein sits quietly on a bench outside the imaginary synagogue and faces the audience. Downstage, Rabbi Levy gazes at the audience. He seems to be in a trance. Hours have passed but it seems like only a few seconds to Rabbi Levy and David Goldstein. Time is a Magus! It feeds human illusion!
A makeshift golden sun illuminates Prague and the Old New Synagogue. It is noon and the universe is lit up. Suddenly, the rabbi speaks to the audience with much emotion.
[Rabbi L.] According to legend, a Nazi agent entered the Old New Synagogue of Prague during WWII. Perhaps, he was a member of the SA, the Sturmabteilung or the SS, the Schutzstaffel. I do not know. But certainly, it was a Nazi who surreptitiously penetrated the Altneuschul with sinister intentions.
With a long, sleek knife in his right hand, he climbed a staircase to the attic in search of the Golem of Prague whose remains were allegedly stored in a coffin there. With much anticipation, he approached the attic, seeking a violent catharsis to fulfill his perverse needs. But what he found was something different, unexpected, and terrifying!
Act 2, scene 4
The Nazi agent is in the attic of the Old New Synagogue of Prague. Clutching his long sleek knife, he gazes at the closed coffin in the middle of the room. Hid dark frenzied eyes are filled with madness.
Rabbi Levy is downstage near the audience. Upstage is the genizah, the storeroom or depository for old Hebrew books and religious papers.
[Rabbi L.] Look! The Nazi is standing near the coffin. I believe the remains of the golem are in the coffin. I wonder if he will... Yes, he is approaching the coffin. David, come look!
(Rabbi Levy looks around the tomblike room.) David, where are you? Just a few seconds ago, you were by my side. Where are you? Are you sitting on the bench outside the synagogue? I told you to follow me as I followed the Nazi upstairs. David, you fool! Where are you?
(The Nazi touches the closed coffin, lifts the cover with his left hand and... The rabbi points to the Nazi. Look! His eyes are filled with madness and... terror! What does he see?
(The Nazi grimaces, gesticulates, and screams. His body shakes and his right hand trembles. His left hand lets go of the cover. He drops the knife, falls to the floor, and lies still.) Is he dead? Is he really dead? (There is a long) silence. Is it time to leave? Or shall I open the coffin and look inside?
Act 2, scene 5
The stage is pitch-black. Rabbi Levy speaks to the audience in the dark.
[Rabbi Levy] There are rumors that the Altneuschul is dark and gloomy. Some say the synagogue is dingy too. It is true that there are twelve narrow Gothic windows in the Old New Synagogue. But today, electric chandeliers illuminate the ancient synagogue.
(Suddenly, the stage is brightly lit. Rabbi Levy is standing upstage, facing the audience. Behind him, a sprawling photo of the Old New Synagogue of Prague stretches across the backstage. Downstage, a few feet in front of the rabbi, is an empty bench.)
This is a strange, familiar place. The Old New Synagogue is my home, my history, my heart! But nothing remains the same. The stairs leading to the attic are gone. The general public no longer has access to the attic. I suppose... it is forbidden!
And now, my friend David Goldstein is missing. (He points to the empty bench.) Yes, my beloved friend is missing! (He walks to the bench and sits down.) David has vanished! He is like a son to me. Like a son...!
Copyright © 2007 by Mel Waldman