The Golem of Carthage Rd

This happened years ago.  It was a grey March Sunday, and I can remember it like it was yesterday.

“How manifold are Thy works, O Lord!

In wisdom hast Thou made them all;

The earth is full of Thy creatures.

Thou openest Thy hand, they are satisfied with good.

Thou hidest Thy face, they vanish;

Thou withdrawest their breath, they perish,

And return to dust.

Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created;

And thou renewest the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;

Let the Lord rejoice in His works!”

“Geeze, Uncle Saul… do you always say that prayer before making meat loaf?”

Maybe it was the novelty of seeing Saul doing the food prep for Sunday’s dinner. There he was in this silly apron, with the fixings for meat loaf arrayed before him, looking to the ceiling and reciting this prayer. Uncle Saul in gingham should have been enough to fix the memory in my mind.  But it would be the careful orchestration of the afternoon that ensured this Sunday spent on Carthage Rd, would earn a place in my personal pantheon of unforgettable days.

He had moved the assembly from the kitchen counter to the breakfast nook and to the table that had been cleared for his use.  With sleeves rolled up he looked down at a rather large bowl… to the side a quantity of chopped chuck, two eggs, quaker oats, chopped onion, grated carrots, worcestershire sauce, kosher Salt and pepper.  He combined the ingredients and dug his hands into the bowl and began kneading the mixture.

“Jimmy… this isn’t just a meat loaf.  It’s going to be a golem.  I need you to walk around the table seven times counter clockwise.”

I did this. It seemed harmless enough.  Saul busied himself with blending the meat.

“Good afternoon to you Lord of the Universe.  This is Saul, your devoted servant, Son of David, Son of Sarah who is speaking.  I have come with a claim against you on behalf of my beloved wife, Miriam.  Why do you permit Assistant Principal Simmons to vex her?  I shall not move from here!  From this very spot, on Carthage Rd in Woodbury, I shall not move!  This travesty must come to an end.  Magnified and Sanctified is Your Name!”

Miriam?  I called her Meggie.  So look, I had no clue what was going on.  I was following Saul’s instructions.  You know… he was a neat guy… even in a gingham apron.

“Jimmy… this time walk seven times around the table clockwise.”

OK. By this time, Herschel, Meggie and Saul’s Miniature Schnauzer, joined me on the clockwise circuits.

“Uncle Saul… what’s a golem?”

“A golem?”

He took a pause from his mixing and blending.

“There was a famous Rabbi in Prague in the 1500s… Judah Loew ben Bezalel.  He was known as the Maharal.  Remember, any Rabbi worth his salt had to have another name.  That’s how you know that they were good!  And this Rabbi was plenty good!  Back then the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II didn’t care for the Jews… although that by itself wasn’t too unusual.  But folks were being killed, which was a little harsh, or forced to leave Prague, which, even then, was a pretty good town.”

“Uncle Saul, I’m confused.”

“OK.  Rabbi Loew got tired of the Jews being pushed around.  Simple.  He wanted the suffering to end.  He decided that what was needed was a super hero to help protect the Jews.  This was in the day before you could buy cops and judges.  He, Rabbi Loew, would have to make an enforcer.  Of course, with God’s help!”

“I’m still confused…”

Uncle Saul resumed working on the meat loaf.  He began to shape it into a large baking pan.

“Rabbi Loew had the recipe for making a golem!  He went with one of his students to a clay bed by the River Vltava. He tore clumps of clay from the bed, said special prayers and incantations, had the student walk counter clockwise seven times around him, then seven times clockwise… from the clay he formed a figure with a head, legs. arms and bulging muscles, said more prayers, chanted more incantations and brought life into it: the Golem of Maharal! It grew in size ’til it loomed over the Rabbi and his student… stand back oppressors!”

This sounded very, very scary.

“Uncle Saul… I’m not sure on this… you’re making a golem out of the meat loaf?”

“Yes… I don’t like the way clay tastes.  After the golem serves its purpose, we can eat it!

Uncle Saul continued to shape the meat loaf into a rather stout figure.  To me (and Herschel) it looked like a meat loaf gingerbread man. What transpired next deepened this journey into the strange.  Uncle Saul entered what appeared to me as a one sided conversation with the meat loaf.  Herschel and I could only watch and listen and guess the nature of the meat loaf’s side of the conversation.

“Help me!” Saul announced to the ceiling.

{“If you bring life to me, my rage will consume the living, my strength will lay waste to Assistant Principal Simmons!”}

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy!  The Lord has commanded me to bring you forth!”

{“Verily, it’s the Lord’s decree!”}

“Then obey it!  You must arise from the pan and do as I bid!  You must be our strength, our champion!”

{“With an out stretched hand, with a clenched fist, a hulk, a GOLEM!”}

“Yes!  A Golem; but one who works the Lord’s will and still helps the unfortunate to cross the street!”

{“I obey the decree!”}

“Simmons… Simmons, Simmons!  Send her plagues… non-stop humming in her ears, painful rectal itch, ill-fitting brassieres!”

This sounded serious to me.  Meggie taught science in Bridgeport; but I didn’t know this Assistant Principal Simmons.  But for sure, I didn’t want to be in her shoes and neither did Herschel!

“Jimmy… we’re almost ready.  Get the Heinz ketchup from the fridge.”

This I did.  And Saul put some on a plate, took his finger and then began a meticulous application of ketchup on the ‘forehead’ of the Golem. Saul explained…


“Jimmy… this is the Hebrew word ’emes’.  It means truth.  Now let’s put the Golem in the oven at 375 and we can sit down to dinner at 5:30.”

I wish I could tell you what effect all this had on the life of Assistant Principal Simmons.  But I can’t.  It would be in my nature to make stuff up.  Particularly regarding the ill-fitting brassieres.  But I will resist.

I think it is fair to ask how can I remember a day from my childhood in such clear detail?

So… I ask you.  Could you forget a day like that?

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