Advertisement

Golem Diagrams: Golem Making, Astrology, and Messianism

  • Marla Segol
Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

This chapter examines the use of letter combination to create the golem. It shows that the purpose of the medieval golem differs from both rabbinic and contemporary popular-culture conceptions of it. Similarly, it considers golem making in terms of totemization, or the process of turning an object into a subject. While the golem is animated by rituals resembling totemization, the golem itself differs primarily in its instrumentality. Its function is not relational, and therefore it is not a proper subject. Instead, it is used to effect met a physical changes, including the resurrection of the dead and the reconstruction of the cosmos. From the late Middle Ages onward, the golem has lived a varied and interesting life in the popular imagination. Both rabbinic and modern sources show its social function, but medieval sources give the ritual a theological telos. In the Middle Ages, this is the true function of the golem. As such the golem gains its power through the process of totemization, but once created, it acts as an agent and not as a totem.

Keywords

Outer Ring Letter Combination Messianic Function Divine Creation Messianic Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 5.
    Moshe Idel, Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), 122.Google Scholar
  2. See also Moshe Idel and Emily Bilski, Golem! Danger, Deliverance, and Art (New York: Jewish Museum, 1989), 20.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See Gershom Scholem, “The Name of God and the Linguistic Theory of the Kabbala,” Diogenes 20, no. 79 (September 1972): 59–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 9.
    Émile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religious Life (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1915), 141–148.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    A. Peter Hayman, “Was God a Magician?,” Journal of Jewish Studies 40, no. 2 (1989): 234 [225–237].Google Scholar
  6. 32.
    A. Peter Hayman, ed., Sefer Yesira: Edition, Translation and Text-Critical Commentary (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2004), SY59, 177.Google Scholar
  7. 38.
    See Bernard W. Anderson, “Exodus Typology in Second Isaiah,” in Israel’s Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg, ed. B. Anderson and W. Harrelson (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 177–195.Google Scholar
  8. 41.
    “At the heart of Abulafia’s method is hokhmat ha-seruf, an astonishingly complex means of meditating on, and associatively recombining, the letters of the sacred Hebrew alphabet. In so doing the soul is liberated from ordinary perceptions, so that at length one may simultaneously confront his true self and behold the divine. Unio mystica is thereby attained, ‘he and He becoming one entity’ (hu’ we-hu’ davar ‘ehad bilti nifrad).” E. K. Ginsburg, “Moshe Idel and the Field of Ecstatic Kabbalah: A Review Essay,” Jewish Quarterly Review 82, no. 1–2 (1991): 208 [207–214].CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 49.
    See Abraham Abulafia, Hayyei Olam HaBa (Jerusalem: Nehora Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  10. 50.
    See below, n. 52. Shahar Arzy, Moshe Idel, Theodor Landis, and Olaf Blanke, “Speaking with One’s Self: Autoscopic Phenomena in Writings from the Ecstatic Kabbalah,” Journal of Consciousness Studies 12, no. 11 (2005): 9 [4–30].Google Scholar
  11. 60.
    Moshe Idel, Absorbing Perfections (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 62.
    Brian Ogren, Renaissance and Rebirth: Reincarnation in Early Modern Italian Kabbalah (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2009), 18–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 66.
    See Shlomo Sela, “Sefer ha-Tequfah: An Unknown Treatise on Anniversary Horoscopy by Abraham Ibn Ezra,” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism, 9, no. 2 (2009): 240–254. He provides a good description of some of the astrological terms appearing in these two diagrams.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. See also Peter Schafer and Mark R. Cohen, eds., Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 185–187.Google Scholar
  15. 69.
    See (Ernst E. Ettish) Eliyahu Rosh-Pinnah, “The Sefer Yetzirah and the Original Tetragrammaton,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, 57, no. 3 (1967): 226 [212–226]. Ettish writes that some thought that YHAH was the “true” tetragrammaton, and that the vowels, which are represented by the three mother letters, actually stood for the tetragrammaton (Ettish, 222). Advocates of this view include Moshe Cordovero and Abraham ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra discussed it in his Sepher Hashem (Book of the Name). Ettish believes that “the concept works as follows: (1) Behind the “mothers” (AMS) of the SY is hidden the “great, wonderful secret” of the Original Tetragrammaton. This consists of the four original vowels u – a – i, – e. (2) The SY and its “mothers” confirm the statement of ibn Ezra that the tetragrammaton contains an Aleph in the guise of a Heh. (3) (4) The Jews of antiquity considered the vowels u – a – i – e as sacrosanct.” (226).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 79.
    See Esperanza Alfonso, “The Uses of Exile in Poetic Discourse: Some Examples from Medieval Hebrew Literature,” in Renewing the Past, Reconfiguring Jewish Culture: From al-Andalus to the Haskalah (Jewish Culture and Contexts), ed. Ross Brann and Adam Sutcliffe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), ch. 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marla Segol 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marla Segol

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations