The Golem’s Heart
By Sumner P. Wolsky
“We’re lovers," Judith said.
"A Golem cannot love," Jacob, her father replied.
"We're lovers," she repeated.
"It's a dangerous obsession."
"That is one definition of love," Judith replied.
Wandering the streets of historic Prague during a break in an international scientific meeting, Joseph found himself in the ancient Jewish ghetto. A small sign directed him to the 13th century gothic structure of The Alte-Neue Shul (Old New Synagogue), the home of the Prague Golem. A Golem, the folkloric protector of the Jews, is the original sci-fi hero, the defender of the just in the battle of good over evil, Superman and all others of his ilk rolled into one. Created from clay by Rabbi Joseph Loew, the synagogue's renowned master of mysticism, the Prague Golem destroyed the murderous enemies of the Jewish community. Its purpose accomplished, the Rabbi returned the Golem to its lifeless form, hiding it under leaves and papers in the attic of the synagogue.
A shrunken, shabbily dressed old lady, one of the few surviving Jews remaining in post World War II Prague, greeted him as he entered the synagogue. "American?" she asked.
A smile worked itself laboriously across the deep gullies of her wrinkled face and the dark orbs that were her eyes flashed a brief spark of light. "God bless you," she said. Touched by her warmth and obvious need, Jacob gave her a ten dollar bill. To show her thanks, she handed him a small delicately carved wooden box. "It's clay from the Golem of the Prague ghetto, from its heart. It will bring you good fortune," she said.
Jacob gave the Golem box to Judith. She placed it on the chest in her room. It remained there, until he saw her carrying it into her art studio years later.
"What's with the Golem?" he asked.
"A surprise. You'll see."
A month later, Judith invited her parents to view her latest work. A larger than life size sculpture of a young man with the handsome face of Adonis and the muscular structure and girth of Samson stood spotlighted in the center of the room. A concave depression on the left side of the figure's chest contained a visible heart.
"Well?" Judith asked.
"Magnificent," Jacob said.
"So real," Sara added
"I call it The Golem's Heart. The heart is made from the clay you brought from Prague."
"I'd wish it alive, if I could. You'd make a handsome couple." Sara said.
Accustomed to her mother's concern about her status as a thirty year old spinster, Judith did not reply.
"When will it be finished?" Jacob asked.
"I'm not certain."
As the weeks passed, the Golem became more than a work of art to Judith. It welcomed her each morning with a smile as radiant as the sun; the eyes, shining like the brightest stars in the night sky, followed her every movement during the day; the massive arms enveloped her in her dreams at night as they danced to the ever increasing tempo of a happy tune. When the music stopped, they fell exhausted onto the bed in a passionate embrace, the clay heart pounding, a distinctive rhythmic beat, one, two, pause, one two, pause… Her mother was right. They would be a wonderful couple. “If only you were alive,” Judith whispered in the Golem’s ear.”
"I've exciting news," her agent said to Judith one day. "A prominent gallery in New York is interested in the Golem’s Heart. They're talking a large sum of money plus the possibility of an exhibit at The Whitney Museum."
“It’s not ready yet,” Judith replied.
“When?” the agent persisted.
Judith stared at the floor as she spoke. “I don’t know.”
Her father stopped her as she was about to enter her studio. “A New York showing will make your career. It is the fulfillment of your artistic goals, an opportunity you must not allow to pass.”
“I can't part with it.”
“Impossible. You made the Golem from clay. It’s not human."
"You forget that I gave it a heart with which to feel."
"Now it's the master of your heart."
Jacob stood frozen in place, desperately seeking to pull Judith away from the precipice of calamity.
"For the sake of your sanity, you must give it up."
"If you enter the mystical realm of the Golem, you're lost."
Judith turned and entered her studio, closing the door behind her.
The light in the room was dim as threatening dark clouds blocked the sun, the wind roared in her ears and fallen leaves splattered the window panes. Speaking to herself as much as the Golem, her face taut as a bowstring and pale as the freshly fallen snow, she said, “It is Impossible.” She paused to take a deep breath, before continuing. “I love you, but we're worlds apart.” A small drop of moisture appeared in the corner of the Golem’s left eye and trickled slowly down its face. Judith reached to touch it, but there was only the feeling of dry clay. "If you love me, you'll find a way, but no matter what happens, you'll always have my heart," Judith said.
“She’s late,” Jacob said at the breakfast table the next morning.
The light was on in her studio last night,” Sara replied.
“Let her sleep. She’s been under a lot of strain.”
Lunch time approached and Judith did not appear.
"She's not in her room. I'm worried," Sara said.
"Maybe she's in the studio. She sometimes forgets about time, when she’s working."
The studio lights were on, but Judith was not there.
"Look, beside the Golem. There’s a new sculpture." Jacob pointed to the shapely figure of a nude young woman.
"It's beautiful," Sara replied.
"It's Judith," Jacob said.
Sara sobbed quietly as Jacob held her in his arms. She finally voiced their fears "We've lost her to the Golem."
“It can’t be.”
“It’s my fault. I wished them together.”
“His body trembling with fear and anger, Jacob looked away from the sculpture as if it was a sight forbidden to human eyes.
."What have you done with her?" Sara screamed at the Golem. "What have you done with her?"
"Hi," a voice said.
Still holding each other tightly, the couple turned to face Judith.
"Do you like my self sculpture?"
"Outstanding," Jacob said.
"I made it for the Golem.”
"We thought. . . ."
Judith laughed loudly. "Since when do you believe in mysticism?"
"You never know in matters of the heart," Jacob said.
Later Judith explained that she had arisen early to add a few final touches to the Golem, before going out for breakfast with an old college roommate. "I apologize for making you worry," Judith said. "They can take the Golem," she continued
”I’m happy that you’ve come to your senses,” Jacob replied.
The showing of The Golem sculpture was greeted in New York with much acclaim. The Times art critic wrote, "The sculpture is an obvious work of love." Art Weekly said, "There was clearly a special relationship between the artist and the sculpture."
Judith found little joy in her success. The emptiness of her studio was unbearable. Her work suffered.
"Maybe if she learns more about Golems, she'll realize that it's all been an irrational fantasy," Jacob said one night. "The Temple’s new Rabbi is giving a course on Jewish Mysticism. I'm going to suggest that she attend."
"Is he single?" Sara asked.
"The Rabbi. You were on the committee that selected him. You should know that.”
"I admire your one track mind," Jacob answered. "The Rabbi is a nice, young bachelor. The Temple was fortunate to get him. There was a problem at his medical exam, a minor physical peculiarity. Happily it was straightened out."
"Hmm, a bachelor," Sara said.
"I know, what you’re thinking. We should be so lucky."
Judith arrived late at the class. As she slid into a seat in the back row, head down, reaching for a notebook, she heard the Rabbi speaking. "There have been many Golems throughout the centuries." Judith looked up to see a towering tall handsome man with a familiar smiling face. Her Golem. It must be her imagination. Judith heard little of the lecture as she filled her notebook with sketches of the Rabbi. Later in her studio she compared the drawings with the studies from which the sculpture had been created. They were identical.
The next morning she called the Rabbi's secretary for an appointment. He greeted her in his office warmly. Without a word, she handed him several sketches. “I made these last night at your class,” she said.
Judith handed him more drawings. ”I did these months ago in preparation for my most recent work, a sculpture that I call The Golem's Heart. The heart is made from clay said to come from the remains of the Prague Golem. Here's a photograph of my sculpture."
The Rabbi studied the papers as Judith continued with the intensity of a prosecutor questioning a witness in a court room. "How is it possible that both sets of sketches are the same, if I never saw you before yesterday?”
"Maybe you have seen me. We were both at the recent annual temple art fair. I picked you out immediately. I tried to introduce myself, but you were busy. I've wanted to call you ever since. Maybe you caught a glimpse of me and my image stuck in your mind as yours has in mine."
"Is it? Let me tell you what I saw." Looking up at the ceiling and closing his eyes, a smile on his face, he said, "A pretty young women about five feet four inches tall with a small nose, dark blue eyes and shiny black hair tied in a pony tail wearing a black skirt and jacket over a white blouse. You wore small sculpted silver heart shaped earrings. Am I correct?"
"Is this some kind of game? Are you the Devil trying to seduce me?"
“And you could be Sleeping Beauty awaiting my kiss,” he replied.
The Rabbi stared at her silently for several moments.
"Do you think that I'm your Golem?"
"You're the expert in mysticism."
"And what would have brought me to life?"
"Love,” Judith said.
The room was quiet as the couple studied each other
The silence was broken by the Rabbi's secretary. "There's an urgent telephone call for Judith." She pressed the receiver to her ear as she listened intently. Putting down the phone, she spoke to the Rabbi in a high pitched, halting voice that cried out in pain.
"The Golem sculpture disappeared from the art studio several days ago. There were no signs of a break in, only shattered pieces of the clay heart around the pedestal. It’s as if the Golem walked out of the gallery on its own." She stopped and sobbed briefly before she said. "It's my fault. I should not have let it go." Joseph took her trembling hand and squeezed it gently. His touch was warm and reassuring.
The disappearance of the Golem made the newspaper headlines and stirred imaginations worldwide. The tabloids were filled with pictures and stories. Some hinted at a mystical love angle with Judith and named her The Golem's Mistress. Others, noting the similarity in appearance with the sculpture, labeled Joseph as Rabbi Golem.
“Why all this hysteria about the Golem? Judith asked her father.
“Mystical figures have always had a special allure. Mix in the strange circumstances of your Golem’s disappearance, conjure up a romantic angle and you have an unbeatable story."
"Is Joseph my Golem?"
"Only you can know that. One thing is certain. Joseph is a good man. If you love him, you should not let him walk away with a broken heart."
Despite many reported sightings and much publicity, the Golem was never found. Joseph was at Judith's side constantly throughout her ordeal. Her dreams were again filled with the Golem, but this time it spoke in Joseph’s voice.
On their wedding night, the couple danced to the rapid tunes of the band, the room spinning as they whirled around and around. Pressed tightly against Joseph, his large arms encircling her body, Judith felt his heart beating, a familiar rhythm, one, two, pause, one two pause, one . . A smile grew on her face, brightening the universe like a giant exploding supernova in the night sky. For one wonderful, unforgettable moment, warmth and love embraced the world.
from the April 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine