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The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague Paperback – August 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300143206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300143201
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this first English translation of Rosenberg's "groundbreaking collection of stories," novelist, translator and scholar Leviant brings the Hebrew work to a wide audience. Published in 1909, the "pseudepigraphic" book purports to be a first-hand account of 16th century events in which the Maharal (the Chief Rabbi of Prague) passes on "the secret concerning the creation of the golem from clay and dust of the earth." Aided by the golem, who possesses formidable supernatural attributes, the Maharal defeats his nemesis the priest Thaddeus, "a vicious anti-Semite and a vengeful and vindictive snake in the grass." Thaddeus works diligently to unleash violence against the Jewish community, but the Maharal provides the spiritual guidance and intellectual counterplots to defeat him. In tone, the tales partake of Scheherazade and Sherlock Holmes, magic and mystery; good triumphs and evil is punished. Leviant's lucid introduction surveys the golem legend and Rosenberg and his innovations. Succinct, pertinent notes clarify Biblical allusions and Kabbala references for readers seeking more than a good story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'Leviant's translation of Rosenberg's work is both an academic triumph and a fun read... Rosenberg's book succeeds in offering a mix of suspense and Torah with a dash of humor. It's a weird, anachronistic romp through both the mysticism of the 16th century, the sensibilities of the 19th, and the timeless humor and mysticism of Judaism.' Matthue Roth, World Jewish Digest"

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jizo43 on May 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Golem and the Wonderous Deeds...."has been translated for the first time into English directly from the Hebrew. It is simply a wonderful book all around. It has wonderful, concise introduction about the golem and tracks it through literary and biblical history. The book reads smoothly and has a very Sherlock Holmes' feel to it as the Maharal has to clear the Jews of Prague from the constant false accusations of killing gentiles for their blood to mix into the matzhos for Passover. The characters are 3-dimensional for a collection of folk tales and the author creates a balance of portraying the Jews and gentiles in the text. Not all the gentiles are bad, as one would expect. It would be easy for the Jews here to become bitter because of their constant persecution, but there is fairness with the police, judges, etc...The Jews here seek truth, justice and peace. The Golem portrayed here is different than the Golem that appears previously in literature and the bible. It is the Golem we've come to know, but as the translator/editor has said, it is this Golem of only the last 100 years that sticks in our heads, though we think it's longer.

So in conclusion,this book reads in an enjoyable, measured fashion. It is also wonderful that it has been brought back to life for the Non-Hebrew & Yiddish reading audience who can now enjoy it as it was originally written by Rosenberg.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jay Kessler on July 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Deliverance from evil. Jews have needed such deliverance time and again. In this book of short tales, the Golem is the means of such deliverance. Nothing fantastic, nothing earth shattering, but deliverance nevertheless due to dreams, warning signs, and of course the actions of the Golem and his maker. A great read about a certain time in history in a certain place where evil stalked the Jewish populace and saving was needed.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a translation from the original manuscript written by Yudl Rosenberg in 1909.
It was a response to the terrible blood libels which had gained credence in the 1890s and was leading to greater attacks on Jews. Rosenberg relies on age-old Hassidic hagiography and folklore to create this folk tale of Rabbi Liva and his creation through kabbalah of the Golem, a manlike creature made from dust and ashes, that Rabbi Liva uses to perform great miracles and to save the innocent and punish the evil.
He uses the Golem to frustrate the evil designs of the spiteful and malicious anti-Semite Father Tadeus. A young Jewish girl is kidnapped and forcibly converted to Christianity before being rescued by the Golem, and forgeries of the blood libel are disproved through the Golem's deeds and the evildoers aiming to frame the Jews unmasked.
The tragedy of a brother (who was swapped at birth) and sister marrying each other, is averted, amidst much supernatural and metaphysical phenomena.
This is a tale of Jewish folklore, fantasy and kabbalah and is both glorious and intriguing.
It is also a commentary, on the fate of the Jews through the ages.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Howie Saefer on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would consider the Golem of Prague to be an extremely uplifting book. While the device of using "magic" in a plot has its downsides, for example, not being realistic, it opens up a whole new realm of creativity to solve a problem. How many times even when one is a child, one wishes one could solve a problem if they had a strong all-powerful friend. This doesn't mean having a genie to satisfy greed, but to obtain justice. Obtaining justice in an often unjust world is a very poignant problem, not only because many of the descendants of people talked about in these books died in the Nazi Holocaust.

More to the point, injustice occurs both in our lives and around us. The Golem was a literary device to solve these injustices to the Jews in the matter of the infamous Blood Libel. The Golem indeed had much more human characteristics than ever before. This book is well worth a read as a distinguished piece of world literature. Also recommended is the translators preface by Curt Leviant.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Librarian on January 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
"The Golem" is a wonderful collection of short stories by Yudl Rosenberg. The main character in the story is actually the Maharal of Prague (also known as Judah Loew ben Bezalel). It was he who took dirt and clay and gave it a humanoid form, a Hebrew name and the ability to move and walk and perform labors for the Jewish people.

This book is wonderful escapist literature. Very recently I had read "The Popes against the Jews" by David Kertzer and "Holy Hatred" by Robert Michael. Both of these were very well-researched, articulate historic texts, although somewhat depressing. In these books we see century after century of mob violence against the Jews, pogroms and other injustices, usually with the blood libel as an excuse for that which is done. Over the centuries millions of Jews have been killed because of false accusations made by Christians, accusing the Jews of killing Christians and using their blood in Jewish religious rituals.

However, in "The Golem" we see the Holy Maharal saving the Jewish people time and time again. He is articulate, he is kind, he is clever and perhaps most important HE IS LUCKY!

Early in the book, his very birth was timed in such a way that the cries of his mother as she gave birth tricked an anti-Semitic Christian (who was planting evidence to frame a Rabbi for the blood libel) into thinking that he had been caught in the act and ran out of the Rabbi's house and into the arms of the police where he was detained and questioned as to why he was carrying the body of a dead child.

And of course he was eventually arrested and convicted for attempting to frame the Rabbi.

This is the sort of good luck that the Jews never really had in Christian Europe, but as a work of fiction it is very enjoyable. Historic accuracy is fine for the classroom or research, but sometimes you just want a happy ending.

When you want a happy ending, this book certainly delivers.
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