This week in Mailbox: we disclose the identity of our January mystery man and announce the names of the four lucky winners. There will also be a brand new quiz question. Listeners quoted: Louise Kelleher, Francois Jooste, J.R. Tinsley, David Eldridge, Constantin Liviu Viorel, Juan Carlos Gil, Colin Law, Charles Konecny.
But first things first. There were quite a few wrong answers this time but still the majority of you answered correctly that the legendary Jewish scholar and Prague rabbi, a contemporary of Emperor Rudolph II, who is buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is none other than:
“The mystery man is Rabbi Loew, or the Maharal, the respected teacher and community leader who probably never expected to be entertaining tourists in a popular 21st century musical!”
...an answer from Louise Kelleher from somewhere in cyberspace.
Francois Jooste from Ottawa, Canada writes:
“This must be the very famous Judah Loew ben Bezalel, also known as the Maharal of Prague, rabbi, scholar, mystic, and philosopher. There is a legend that he created a golem to protect the Jews of the Prague Ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks. Supposedly it still exists in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, ready to be revived if needed.”
J.R. Tinsley listens to Radio Prague in Louisiana:
“We do know that he appeared before Emperor Rudolf II on 23 February 1592. He was attended by his brother Sinai and his son-in-law Isaac Cohen. The Emperor was attended by Crown Prince Bertier. Authorities say that their conversation related to Jewish mysticism, which fascinated Rudolf II. Loew was considered a scholar in his time.”
David Eldridge from England, this time writing from Norway:
“The immediate task confronting Rabbi Yehuda Loevy ben Bezalel when he assumed the rabbinate of Prague in 1572 was to make an end to the frequent blood accusations usually instigated by local parish priests in which Jews were accused of ritual murders, the most prominent manifestation of anti-Semitism of the time. Ben Bezalel soon came to realise that he was up against some determined propagators of these libels, notably Father Thaddeus, and realised he had to call on his kabbalistic skills to counter them. In the spring of 1580, the Maharal [...] created a ‘man’ from the mud of the Vltava River. Known as the ‘Golem’ this man-made creature was assigned to patrol the Jewish sector of Prague and protect the Jews against Gentile depredations. The origin of this legend of the Golem was kept a secret for the lifetime of the Maharal, but the stories of the Golem of Prague have given storytellers and dramatists much imaginative creation for more than three centuries.”
Constantin Liviu Viorel follows Radio Prague in Romania:
“The answer to your question is Yehudah Loew. He was born in 1512 in a distinguished family of rabbis who traced their ancestry to King David. Yehudah Loew is also known as the Maharal, which is an acronym for Moreinu Harav Judah Loew ben B`Zalel .This means Our Teacher and Rabbi Loew. He wrote a lot of books on Jewish law, philosophy and morality. He was an advanced leader in education. He insisted that children be taught according to their intellectual maturity and not only their chronological age. He died in 1609 and is buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague.”
Juan Carlos Gil from Spain sent this answer along with his reception report:
“The person you ask for is Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, also known under the acronym of the Maharal. He lived from 1512 to 1609 and was a Renaissance humanist. In addition to being a religious teacher and Rabbi of the Jews, the Maharal was also a philosopher, astrologer, astronomer, and observer of the natural sciences. Besides he was known for his expertise in magic and the kabbalah. In Prague today everyone knows the legend of the Golem of Rabbi Loew.”
Our regular listener Colin Law from New Zealand sent in a long answer as every month:
“Judah Lew ben Bezalel was born either in 1512 in Posen, Poland, or in 1525 in Worms in Germany, although the year may be uncertain, it is known that he was born on the night of the Passover Seder, the traditional family meal. His was a family of Rabbis who traced their ancestry back to King David. He was an important Talmudic scholar, Jewish mystic, and philosopher who served as a leading rabbi in Prague for much of his life. The youngest of four brothers he married at the age of 32, having six girls and one boy. He accepted a rabbinical position in 1553 as Landesrabbiner of Moravia at Mikulov (Nikolsburg).”
Charles Konecny is writing from Ohio:
“A remarkable man who was a scholar in Jewish law, philosophy, and mathematics, but it seems he is most remembered for his mysticism. The story of the Golem he made of clay, which he later destroyed by rubbing the letter ‘E’ from the Golem's forehead in order to save Prague, makes for very interesting reading. But his other qualities allowed him to become the chief rabbi in Prague and I note there is a statue of him in front of the Prague City Hall and also that he has a rather ornate grave in the Old Jewish Cemetery where people come to lay coins.”
Thanks very much for all your answers, and this month the four listeners who will be sent Radio Prague goodies are J.R. Tinsley from the United States, Francois Jooste from Canada and Anil Kumar and Samson Viegas, both from India. Congratulations and your parcels will be posted first thing on Monday morning.
Our monthly competition continues and from the 16th century we move some three hundred years onwards.
Our February mystery woman was a member of an old Bohemian noble family. She was born in 1868 and in 1900 she married a man of a higher social status than hers. Fourteen years later the tragic death of the couple triggered World War I.
I believe the question is easy this time so we expect lots of correct answers at the usual address: [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic. Thanks for listening today and Mailbox will be back again, same time, same place next week. Bye-bye.