Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on story fabrication - The Golem

As some have mention in the comments to my previous post, the story of the Mahral and the Golem although many take it as true, it is not. Popularized by Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg, the work is a work of fiction, something even noted in a bibliography published of Rabbi Rosenberg's works. Some of the people who discuss this are Ira Robinson, "Literary Forgery and Hasidic Judaism: the Case of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg," Judaism 40 (1991), pp. 61-78), Shnayer Z. Leiman, "The Adventure of the Maharal of Prague in London; R. Yudl Rosenberg and the Golem of Prague," Tradition 36:1 (2002): 26-58 and Eliezer Segal.

However, surprisingly, in the online publication Dei'ah veDibur, there is also an article on this topic (hat tip A Simple Jew). The article "borrows" heavily from the above mentioned articles (without citation). It also references some early sources which cast doubt on the veracity of the story, the article does so without identifying the source. One of the unnamed sources I think is a reference to R. Shlomo Yehuda Rappoport's introduction to Kalmen Leiben's Gal Ed however, the dates don't work out exactly (Gal Ed 1856). It would make sense to leave this unidentified, as though R. Rapoport was the son-in-law of the famed author of the Ketzot HaHoshen and even added the index and some notes to his Aveni Milumim, R. Rapoport is not considered the most traditional Jew (See Barzaily typically terrible biography on Rapoport). Additionally, although the article in Dei'ah veDibur is rather detailed it also leaves out R. Shlomo Schick's criticism (based upon Rapoport) of the story as well. Again this may be due in part to some people's views regarding Schick (see this post where some of Schick's work was censored). [Additionally, the article mentions a small book by R. Eckstein titled Sefer Yetzirah which appears to be available on the Rare Hebrew Books from Harvard's Collection Microfilm].

But perhaps the most surprising thing in the entire article is its conclusion
Rabbi Eshkoli emphasizes that we should be raising our children with literature that is historically reliable, for which our extensive traditions about the greatness and holiness and the powerful prayer of the tzakkikimand Torah giants of earlier times amply suffice. Niflo'os Maharal therefore ought no longer to be circulated unless each copy carries a clear disclaimer stating that the story is fiction. Neither, he also points out, should the book be quoted from as though it was reliable information.
Dei'ah veDibur bills itself as "A Window Into The Charedi World," so perhaps this emphasis on truth will signal a new trend in haradei biographies only time will tell.

[One interesting side note a Polish TV crew went into the attic of the Altena Shul in Prague and filmed the contents. The pictures they found were published in a Polish book. These pictures show a big mound of dirt but no Golem as far as I can tell.]

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