An animated clay figure whose name derives from that given to Adam before Jehovah breathed life into him. In about 1590, Rabbi Low Ben Bezalel made a golem to protect the Jews of Prague against the attack by the Christians. The rabbi approached his task with great reverance, using pure water and clay from a newly opened pit. He blessed each portion of the golem's anatomy as he fashioned it from clay, and eventually brought it to life by inserting a slip of paper, bearing the sacred word shem, under the clay tounge.
The golem proved not only an effective sentinel, but also a useful domestic servant. It scared away Christians prowling around the ghetto after dark, and did the heavy housework in the rabbi's home. But on one Friday night the ponderous creature ran amok, because the rabbi forgot to remove the slip of paper at sunset, when all Jews should cease work until sunset on Saturday.
The golem rampaged through the dark streets of the ghetto until the rabbi and his friends could catch it, remove the slip of paper, and cart the clay figure off to the cellars of the Great Synagogue. According to tradition, the golem still lies there awaiting re-animation.