golem (gōˈləm) [key] [Heb., = an undeveloped lump], in medieval Jewish legend, an automatonlike servant made of clay and given life by means of a charm, or shem [Heb., = name, or the name of God]. Golems were attributed in Jewish legend to several rabbis in different European countries. The most famous legend centered around Rabbi Löw, of 16th-century Prague. After molding the golem and endowing it with life, Rabbi Löw was forced to destroy the clay creature after it ran amok.

See J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (1939, repr. 1961); M. Idel, Golem (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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