amulet iconThings they didn't teach you in Hebrew school.

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Translations of Original Sources | Academic and History Titles
Practical Kabbalah and Related Superstition | Folklore and Fiction


Translations of Original Sources

Tobit, The Book Of, presented in Sacred Writings: Christianity: The Apocrypha and the New Testament from the revised English Bible. Oxford university Press and Cambridge University Press, 1989, 1992.

The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the (Book of) Tobit as "A late Jewish work, never received into the Jewish canon, and included in the Apocrypha by Protestants, although it was pronounced canonical by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Trent (1546)." The text exists in Judaeo-Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and it is uncertain whether the original text was in Greek or Aramaic. It is thought to have been written c. 200-50 B.C.E. Although not canonized by the Jews, the story is a Jewish one. It begins plainly enough, explaining how Tobit, a Jew in Babylonian exile, stayed true to God, giving alms and burying abandoned Jewish corpses with proper rites (the latter being illegal). When Tobit goes blind and loses his fortune, he sends his son Tobias abroad to retrieve money long held by a friend. Tobias is accompanied by the angel Raphael, who is disguised as an Israelite called Azarias. Along the way, Raphael helps Tobias rescue and marry Sarah, whose first seven husbands were killed by the demon Asmodeus (Ashmedai), who wanted her for himself. This story is an interesting mix of morality, faith, and demonology.

Charlesworth, James H, editor(s). Duling, D.C, translator. Testament of Solomon, The, presented in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1. Anchor Bible, 1983.

A translation of the Greek text dating from the 1st to 3rd centuries C.E., the text tells the story of Solomon's building of the Temple by forcing a variety of demons to do the work. Includes a good introduction essay covering religious and literary themes, the lore of Solomon, and the origins of the manuscript. The story itself is quite colorful and includes a parade of fantastic creatures, though it ends on a sort of forced evangelical note. Duling (the translator) considers the work a Christian text (or at least one edited by a Christian), though one based heavily on Semitic folklore and mythology, possibly on an original Hebrew text.

Gaster, Moses, translator. Sword of Moses, The, presented in Studies and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Mediaval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan Archaeology, vols. 1 and 3.. Maggs Brothers, London, 1925-1928.

Written in the 1st-4th century CE, the "Sword" is a long list of divine and angelic Names, which the author states was transmitted to Moses, " which every wish is fulfilled and every secret revealed, and every miracle, marvel, and prodigy are performed..." Part 1 is an introduction, part 2 is the Sword, and part 3 details how to use segments of the Sword to achieve certain effects (healing, divination, defeat of enemies, etc.). Gaster's translation contains an informative introduction about the text and its context. You can obtain "The Sword of Moses" in two ways: One is to purchase the essay in reprint from Near Eastern Press. The other is to locate Gaster's Studies and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Mediaval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan Archaeology, vols. 1 and 3. IMPORTANT NOTE: In the English translation Gaster does not transcribe most of the vast list of Names which make up the Sword (he uses "N" and "X"); one must refer to the actual Hebrew text in "Studies..." vol. 3. The Near Eastern reprint does not include the Hebrew. If one actually intended to study the Sword, having a copy of the Hebrew text is necessary.

Gikatilla, Rabbi Joseph. Weinstein, Avi, translator. Sha'are Orah (The Gates of Light). Harper Collins, 1994.

Written in the 13th century, this treatise on the esoteric Kabbalah explains the ten sefirot, their attributes, their relation to the Torah, and the Jew's relationship with God.

He-Chasid, Rabbi Judah ben Samuel. Finkel, Avraham Yaakov, translator. Sefer Chasidim (The Book of the Pious). Jason Aronson, 1997.

Written circa 1190-1200 by a German pietist, this very human guide to life, related in close to 1200 short examples, deals with such topics as a Jew's relation to God, prayer, the Divine Name, angels and demons, holidays, scribes and holy books, immorality, social situations, and so on. Though the work is not a Kabbalistic treatice, it does contain a healthy number of references to the esoteric and to folklore. Finkel's translation is plainly done and very well-organized, indexed by paragraph and topic, but is not in the text's original order and may be incomplete; I could not find a very distinctive quote another author translated and attributed to this book. Rabbi Judah's massages are clear, concise, occasionally humerous, and a pleasure to read. (Note: you might also find the author and title listed under alternate spellings, such as "He-Hasid", "Ha-Hasid", "Sefer Hasidim", etc.)

ibn Pakuda, Bachya. Feldman, Yaakov, translator. Chovos Halevovos (The Duties of the Heart). Jason Aronson, 1996.

Written in the 11th century. This is not a Kabbalistic work, but a treatise on mystical piety which concerns itself with understanding God's relationship to His creation and how one can attain a higher level of faith.

Jacobs, Louis, editor(s). Jewish Mystical Testimonies (The Shocken Book of). Shocken Books, New York, 1996.

Also published as "Jewish Mystical Testimonies", Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd., 1976. Possibly out of print. A very useful collection of translations of original sources for anyone interested in the mystical experience, in particular firsthand accounts. Selections include the writings of Maimonides, Abraham Abulafia, Eleazar of Worms, Joseph Karo, Hayyim Vital, the Gaon of Vilna, and modern authors, plus accounts of the "chariot" mystics. Issues of piety, meditation, angelic instruction, and other ecstatic experiences are discussed. This book is somewhat complementary to Epstein's.

Kaplan, Aryeh, translator. Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation). Weiser Books, 1997.

"Revised edition." Very esoteric, lots of stuff on the secrets of the alphabet, "paths", letter permutations, correspondences between the Spheres, angels, months, etc. Kaplan is great: he gives the original Hebrew, the literal translation, and (fortunately) a pile of explanation/interpretation. He also includes some historical commentary. Kaplan's written a number of books on the Kabbalah.

Savedow, Steven, translator. Sefer Rezial Hemelach (The Book of the Angel Rezial). Samuel Weiser, Inc., 2000.

"Rezial" can also be rendered as "Raziel", which is the form I have usually seen it in and use in my own writing. This is the only complete English translation I have found, and even Savedow comments on the rarity of the document in general, let alone in any translation. Savedow made his from the 1701 Hebrew edition, and explains in his preface that his intent is to present the text as literally as possible, without interpretation, so the readers can draw their own conclusions from it. The book covers the nature of firmaments, hells, the Names of God, the meanings of letters, talismans, auspicious times to make amulets, Gematria, astrology, and more.

Stern/Mirsky, editor(s). Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives From Classical Hebrew Literature. Jewish Publication Society, 1990.

Out of print. This very interesting compilation contans numerous translations of original texts, covering many countries and a span of about 1000 years. The title is a little misleading, because most of the tests are not folktales, but parables, sermons, interpretations on the Torah, and other serious writings which have a mystical or "fantastic" slant. Of particular note is the translation of The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which contains a well-known version of the story of Lilith; Sefer Zerubabel, a really interesting but obscure apocalypse; and numerous examples of the mystical significance of the Hebrew alphabet and Torah.

Academic and History Titles

Ariel, David. Mystic Quest, The. Jason Aronson, 1990.

(Other editions available.) Ariel examines what mysticism is, the universe according to the Kabbalist view, and the Jewish mystic's striving to understand the nature of God and the universe, and to cleave to God. Good introductory explanation of the Sefirot and the Divine universe; also a nice chapter on the soul.

Epstien, Perle. Kabbalah: The Way of the Jewish Mystic. Shambhala, 2001.

(Other editions available.) A more or less introductory volume which deals with the life of the mystic, his yearnings and passions, often through relating the lives of individual sages. Epstien also relates a number of meditative practices from original sources. Her slant is more on the human experience. Very readable.

Fine, Lawrence. Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety and the Beginning of Wisdom. Paulist Press, 1984.

Fine discusses the history of the city of Safed in the 15th century, and the Kabbalistic masters who lived there. He then presents translations of a number of treatises on mystical piety.

Gaster, Moses. Studies and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Medieval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan Archaeology (Vols. 1-3). Maggs Brothers, London, 1925-1928.

These books are an academic tour-de-force, a large selection from the life-work of Moses Gaster, collected and reprinted from articles he published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A mixture of first-time translations and essays, Gaster covers Hebrew apocalypses and revalations, amulets, demons, practical Kabbalah, and other near-Eastern topics. Of particular note is his translation of The Sword of Moses. Volume 3 is original texts only (Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.). I found Volume 1 to have the best selection of texts and topics.

Hoffman, Edward. Hebrew Alphabet, The: A Mystical Journey. Chronicle Books, 1998.

Similar in nature to the Kurshner's well-known book on the subject, Hoffman discusses the inner significance of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and concludes with a number of suggested meditations on them. Karen Silver provides fine illustrations of each letter.

Idel, Moshe. Hasidism: Between Ecstacy and Magic. State University of New York Press, 1995.

If you can get through the very thick introduction, you get to Idel's discussions of mysticism and magic in the Hasidic sects. The academese-ridden, somewhat dry writing makes it a little hard to digest. He talks a lot about the role of the Tzaddik (righteous or "saintly" person). Almost half the book is endnotes!

Issacs, Ronald H. Ascending Jacob's Ladder: Jewish Views of Angels, Demons, and Evil Spirits. Jason Aronson, 1998.

A slim, very readable volume covering the basics of demons and angles in Judaism. I found little in it that I had not already read about in some of the "heavier" academic texts, but it was another good look at the subjects. This would be a good book for those who want an overview or introduction without the "academese" or assumption of prior knowledge of the subject.

Kushner, Rabbi Lawrence. Sefer Otiyot, The Book of Letters: A Mystical Aleph-Bait. Jewish Lights Publishing, 2nd edition, 1990.

First printing, Harper and Row Publishers, Inc, 1975. Rabbi Kushner explores the inner meanings of the Hebrew alphabet, not only in his text, but in his calligraphy, in which the entire book is set. Compare to Hoffman.

Matt, Daniel C. Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. Castle Books, 1997.

A sort of primer for Jewish Mysticism, including brief history, explanations, and meditations. Topics include Ein Sof the infinite God) and one's relationship with Him, the Sefirot, creation, mystical experience, and living a spiritual life in the material world. The text is not an academic essay, but somewhat poetic and gentle, meant to help teach and guide the reader in their personal growth.

Pagels, Elaine. Origin of Satan, The. Vintage Books, 1996.

Although this book is mainly concerned with the evolution, use and portrayals of Satan in Christianity, chapter 2, "The Social History of Satan: From the Hebrew Bible to the Gospels", explains the origin and use of the adversarial force, or "the satan", in Hebrew writings, particularly apocrypha. The book is really quite an interesting and engaging study of how "evil" has been used in various ways in Western culture.

Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah. Keter Publishing House Jerusalem, Ltd., 1974.

(Other editions available.) A strong starter book covering history, theory, schools of thought, and practice. Great overview of a broad variety of topics, organized, and highly informative, though purely academic and in places a bit dry. Scholem was a top authority who wrote many books and articles; any of his writings should be fine. If you can't find this book, try the Encyclopedia Judaica; "Kabbalah" was formed largely from articles he wrote for many of its volumes.

Scholem, Gershom. On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism. Shocken Books, 1965.

(Other editions available.) Originally published as Zur Kabbalah und ihrer Symbolik. Rhein-Verlag, Zurich, 1960. Five essays on particular subjects: "Religious Authority and Mysticism", "The Meaning of the Torah in Jewish Mysticism", "Kabbalah and Myth", "Tradition and New Creation in the Ritual of the Kabbalists", and "The Idea of the Golem."

Wolfson, Elliot R. Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics. State University of New York Press, 1995.

This is a rather advanced, "academese"-laden text which, in two essays, assumes the reader possesses a certain level of knowledge on very particular topics. The first essay is about the throne of God within the context of Medieval Pietism, and the second concerns early Jewish-Christian crossover symbolism and the book The Bahir. The third essay, however, is quite interesting, and is much more readable and more easily understood. Called "Walking as a Sacred Duty," it concerns the physical and spiritual jorneys of the mystic , and how he both draws down divinity and uplifts the mundane to holiness.

Practical Kabbalah and Related Superstition

Bloch, Chayim. Golem: Legends of the Ghetto of Prague. Kessinger Publishing, 1997.

Originally published 1917 in Osterreichischen Wochenscrift, a much larger book of which Bloch was one of the editors; and in 1919 rewritten and published as Der Prager Golem. (Remarkably, Bloch penned the latter while in the WWI tranches.) Bloch's work appears to have been translated into English between 1919 and 1924. My edition is a sort of facsimile of an original copy (i.e., films were made from the book's pages, rather than the publisher re-typesetting it), minus the original publisher's credits and illustrations. In addition to the stories, the translation includes a variety of introductions and essays about the legends, Rabbi Loew, and Bloch himself. Bloch compiled as many Golem stories as he could find in Eastern Europe. The things I like about this edition is that the content a little closer to the source, it is not so "reinterpreted", and it contains most if not the entire cycle of stories. Bloch, according to the essays, was one of the first people to collect Eastern Jewish/Hassidic stories for publications in Western Europe.

Budge, Sir E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Superstitions. Dover, 1978.

(Other editions available; this is a reprint of the 1938 first edition.) Also published as "Amulets and Talismans." University Books, NY, 1961. Written by the "sometime keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum, Scholar of Christ's College, Cambridge; and Tyrwhitt Hebrew Scholar", this is a thorough volume covering amulets, talismans, seals, and certain common superstitions from ancient Mediterranean, Near Eastern, and Middle Eastern cultures (Egyptian, Jewish, early Christian, Gnostic, Arabic, Muslim, etc.), with some attention given to India. Brief coverage of astrology, divination methods, numbers, Hand of Fatima, etc. Many illustrations. This is a clear, concise, easy read packed with information. Budge was an Egyptologist and also wrote several books on Egyptian religion, hieroglyphs, etc.

Chajes, J.H. Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists and Early Modern Judaism. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

The first part of the book covers the emergence of dybbuk (and some other types of) possessions in Jewish society in the 16th to early 17th centuries.  Chajes covers who was possessed, by whom and why; the exorcists (often famous Kabbalists) that treated the victims; perceptions and beliefs about disembodied souls; the relationship to women’s religiosity; and how these stories were told and disseminated.   The second part of the books features the author’s translations of eleven possession narratives from the time period discussed—a nice treat in terms of original source material not easily found by the non-scholar.

Gaster, Moses. "A Note on 'A Hebrew Amulet'", presented in Studies and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Mediaval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan Archaeology, vol. 1. Maggs Brothers, London, 1925-1928.

This short article originally appeared in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, May 1910, and is Gaster's response to a March article about the tentative translation of a metal amulet by another scholar named E. J. Pilcher. Gaster claims to present a more complete and accurate translation, and provides a variety of notes to explain all of the abbreviations used on the piece, fills in some translation gaps, and comments on its purpose. Gaster believes the piece is "modern" (meaning, reasonably contemporary to 1910) and is a "reduction of a formula...usually found in the amulets written on paper or parchment." The article is a good, concise example of amulet analysis, provides some reference to abbreviations one might encounter on them, and briefly discusses what Gaster considers to be the general text structure of parchment amulets.

Idel, Moshe. Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. State University of New York Press, 1990.

Out of print. More readable than some of Idel's other work. This book presents us with an array of literature and theory related to the golem, from Talmudic times to the 20th century. Unlike Nigal, his focus is not on the supernatural in fiction, but on analyzing creation magic and the symbolism of the golem in the writings and treatices of various Kabbalists thoughout time and the world. The crowning feature of this book is the large number of translated passages from a variety of manuscript sources which ordinary people would normally never have access to. Idel's introduction is pretty dry, and he's writing for a more experienced audience, but don't be turned off by it—this is excellent material.

Naveh/Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity. Magnes Press, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1985.

Probably out of print. Translations, photos, and illustrations of twenty-two amulets, thirteen incantation or "devil trap" bowls, several fragments of "magic books", and a few other items, primarily dating from 500-1000 C.E. Also features an introduction and extensive bibliography and glossary. Naveh and Shaked present the items in a survey-like format, their purpose being "to provide philologically reliable material, and not to offer a detailed study of the religious implications of these texts." (See Schrire for what Naveh and Shaked do not provide.) As a result, most of their commentary on the translations concerns reconstruction of unclear and missing sections, etymology, spelling, and grammar, all of which is unfortunately largely lost on the reader if s/he is not a linguist familiar with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. However, for its illustrations and translations, the book is an excellent source of examples of early Jewish amulets.

Newall, Venetia. Witch In History, The. Barnes and Noble, 1996.

While most of the book has nothing to do with Judaism, one chapter, "The Jew as a Witch Figure," explores fears, superstitions, hypocrisies, and stereotypes used against the Jews, and most interestingly relates some information on the legend of The Wandering Jew. The rest of the book covers the role of witches in a variety of cultures' folklore and literature. Academic, informative.

Schrire, T. Hebrew Amulets: Their Decipherment and Interpretation. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1966.

Out of print. Schrire studied over 1000 amulets as part of his research for this book, which discusses the history, styles, production, and interpretation of amulets. This book is absolutely invaluable, and includes over 50 photographed and translated amulets, as well as a thorough indexes and explanation of Names, angels, verses, and their abbreviations. Interlibrary loan may be your best chance at finding this book. After years of seeing one pop up here and there on the used market, I finally broke down and bought a paperback edition from the 1980s in slightly worn condition—and I had to pay a lot for it.

Trachtenburg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition. Atheneum, 1987.

Published in many editions from 1939 to the present. This book is an amazing resource. Concentrating on the medieval period to the 1600s, Trachtenburg covers many topics: dealing with demons and spirits, the Evil Eye, using Psalms and biblical verses in magic, amulet making, angelology, Lilith lore, gems, medicine, divination, astrology, Names, magical procedure, etc.

Folklore and Fiction

Ansky, S. Werman, Golda, translator. The Dybbuk and Other Writings. Yale University Press, 2002.

The book contains “The Dybbuk, or, Between Two Worlds: A Dramatic Legend in Fours Acts,” as well as other interesting short stories and commentart about the Jews of Galacia in the early 20th century. "The Dybbuk" is a classic play, originally produced in the 1920s in Yiddish and Hebrew, subsequently made in to a movie in 1937, and is still produced in English and other languages. The story is about Leah and Khonon, who were meant to be married. Slighted by Leah's father due to his poverty, Khonon turns to the Kabbalah, but overzealous study kills him. When Leah's father tries to marry her to another man, Khonon's restless soul comes to claim what should be his.

Ausubel, Nathan, editor(s). A Treasury of Jewish Folklore. Crown Publishers, 1948.

Covers all genres, and features necdotes and short stories. Interesting stories include "The Downfall of King Solomon", a section of demon tales, the classic golem story, an tales of possession.

Galford, Ellen.  Dyke and the Dybbuk, The. Seal Press, 1993. 

Possibly OOP but still available. Kokos is a female demon who’s just escaped the tree a wonder-working rabbi trapped her in over 200 years ago. Rainbow Rosenbloom is a rather unobservant Jewish film critic/London taxi driver, the current descendant of the line of women Kokos was commissioned to hassle for 33 generations. But neither the world nor the possession business is like it used to be—Kokos is having problems with her bosses, and she’s grudgingly starting to like her victim even as she makes Rainbow fall for a Hasidic rabbi’s daughter. When Kokos’ original “client” Anya, now a wandering spirit, turns up, things get even more complicated. A rather quirky and amusing story of cultural identity, romance gone awry, and the supernatural. Galford takes some liberties with the definition of dybbuk, as a dybbuk is typically the wandering soul of a mortal being punished—Kokos is more of a lilit or a succubus—but the story is entertaining and doesn't claim to be a treatise on Jewish folklore or demonology.

MacDonald, George. Lilith (A Romance). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

Originally published in 1895. It’s difficult for me to describe this novel since I’m writing this entry a couple of years after I read it, and it’s odd. I will say that the book is really not about Lilith, though she is a character portrayed as reluctant to accept God and be redeemed. It is also a Christian work about salvation and resurrection, as MacDonald was a Scottish deacon. The simplest way to describe it is “unnamed male narrator travels to a spiritual plain on a personal journey involving strange symbolic religious characters and situations.” C.S. Lewis speaks favorably of the MacDonald in an introduction and others compare him to Poe. If you like early/Gothic fantasy you might enjoy this. Mostly I’m including it in the bibliography so people looking for literature on Lilith understand it’s probably not what they might think it is.

Meyrink, Gustav. Bleiner, E.F, translator. Golem, The. Dover Publications, 1985.

Meyrink, an early-20th century gothic-horror writer with a deep interest in the occult, wrote this story between 1906 and 1913, and set it in then-contemporary Prague. However, it's not really about the Golem, who appears "in person" only twice and is really more symbolic of the main character's mental state. The first half of the book is very engaging, and involves a variety of characters in the Jewish ghetto, a murder, and a man without a past (who could himself represent a golem). Unfortunately, the plot as set up is all but abandoned halfway through, which is a pity since the introduction indicated that Meyrink's original notes indicated a more engaging follow-through with more involvement on the part of the Golem. My suggestion: enjoy the first half, and make up your own ending.

Neugroschel, Joachim, editor(s). Great Tales of Jewish Occult and Fantasy. Wings Books, 1990.

(Other editions, sometimes under slightly different titles, available.) Other versions of the golem and dybbuk tales, a weird messianic tale, "The Rabbi Who Was Turned Into a Werewolf", and lots of others.

Nigal, Gedalyah. Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism. Jason Aronson, 1994.

All the things Scholem only alludes to in Kabbalah by referring you to rare manuscripts you'll never have access to, such as exactly how people used to exorcise demons, Nigal covers. This is because his focus is on storytelling and the popular history of the Kabbalah. Not only does he discuss Ba'alei Shem Tov and how they went about their business, he relates all sorts of nifty stories and archetypes. This is one of my favorites.

Piercy, Marge. He, She, and It. Middlemarsh, Inc/Ballantine Books, 1991.

In the 2060s, Shira has divorced her husband and left the restrictive technology conglomerate in which she worked for and lived. She returns home to Tikvah, a Jewish city-state—one of the few independent communities left. There she learns her grandmother Malkah has participated in a secret and illegal experiment to create an artificial intelligence with a human form and qualities. While this creature, a "man" called Yod, develops a relationship with Shira and tries to deal with his main creator's derisiveness toward him, Malkah tells him the story of Rabbi Loew and the Yosele Golem—a tale over 400 years old but which parallels his own life. While Shira and Yod wonder if he can live an open life in Tikvah, Shira's former employers show an unusual and dangerous interest in their town. While Piercy occasionally indulges in a bit of academic flaunting, I found the two story tracks compliment each other well, despite my initial wariness. The Golem track is perhaps the better-told of the two, but Malkah is an engaging character, and the relationship between Shira and Yod feels genuine.

Rogasky, Barbara. Golem, The. Holiday House, 1996.

Though the book seems to be aimed at a young-adult readership, this is a well-told, gritty novella which retells many of the core tales regarding Rabbi Loew and Yosele Golem. The illustrations by Trina Hyman are really superb.

Schwartz, Howard. Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural. Oxford University Press USA, 1991.

After a concise and informative introduction about the Jewish views on the supernatural and demons, the reader is given fifty short, creepy tales from around the world and throughout time, all nicely retold (not all of them are about Lilith). Sources and commentary are included for each story in the endnotes. A good, entertaining resource.

Sherwood, Francis. Book of Splendor, The. W.W. Norton and Co., 2002.

Yet another retelling of the classic tale of the Golem, what makes Sherwood's book unusual is the importance of both non-Jewish historical figures and her own characters. Three plotlines gradually come together: naturally, one is the story of Rabbi Loew and his decision to make a Golem, which to his surprise and discomfort is far more intelligent than he imagined. The second follows the unhinged and pitiful Emperor Rudolf and his court: his valet Vaclav, astronomers Tycho Brache and Johannes Kepler, the Armenian doctor Kirakos, and con artists John Dee and Edward Kelly, who are supposed to be making His Highness immortal. The third centers around the young seamstress Rochel, an unpopular orphan who is given a charitable marriage to the widowed shoemaker Zev. An enjoyable read with engaging characters. This book may be out of print.

Singer, Issac Bashevis. Golem, The. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996.

(Translation by the author, 1981.) Originally written in Yiddish and published in the Jewish Daily Forward in 1966, this version seems primarily aimed at young readers. Personally I would have preferred Singer's usual tone of creepiness, moral dilemmas, depravity, and lurking evil (such as in Gimpel the Fool or Satan in Goray). Two things about this version bothered me, and seemed more obviously aimed to satisfy children: first, the Golem speaks, in a sort of "Me Tarzan" way; and second, there's a sort of gratuitous, brief "romance" between the Golem and a girl at the end of the book, which, as one would expect with Singer, does not end happily.

Singer, Issac Bashevis. Satan in Goray. Noonday Press, 1996.

(Other editions available.) Originally published in Yiddish in 1935, Warsaw. Singer's first novel is tight, unsettling tale set in 1666 in Goray, a Jewish town struggling to return to life after devestating pogroms which left the place abandoned for years. Part moral tale, part psychological study, part supernatural, it concerns the mania surrounding the rise of the heretical pseudo-messiah Shebbatai Zevi (an actual person), and the conflict which divides Goray into believers and non-believers, traditionalists and mystics, pious and demonic. Engaging, evocative.

Winkler, Gershon. Dybbuk: A Glimpse of the Supernatural in Jewish Tradition. Judaica Press, 2002. 

Possibly OOP. 1992-2002 printings are the “revised edition”; the first edition was published in 1981. Most of the book consists of accounts of possession ranging from the mid-16th to early 20th centuries., but there is also an introduction and shorter academic section covering Jewish/Kabbalistic views of the soul, dybbuks, transmigration, death and suffering, ghosts, demons, magic, and superstition. As with his other works, I prefer his strong academic content over his fictionalized accounts of the supernatural; I would have preferred straight translations, such as Chajes provides. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a book with so many complete possession stories, and from so many time periods.

Winkler, Gershon. Golem of Prague, The. Judaica Press, 1980, 1984.

Winkler retranslated and re-edited the complete cycle of Golem stories as found in Bloch. Winkler's style was to novelize the text ("newly dramatized", according to the back cover). In my opinion, he is a much stronger academic writer and I found his fiction readable but clunky. Arguably the more valuable aspect of this book is the included collection of essays by Winkler and other scholars about Loew, the Golem, the authenticity of early texts, and the Jewish view of the occult and miracles. Out of print.