The Rebbetzin Behind the Golem
Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.
Pearl Loew was the wife of magical Rabbi Yehudah Leib ben Betsalel, known as Rav Loew of medieval Prague, and thought to be the creator of the Golem. Like her husband’s creation, the story of Pearl Loew has been imbued with mystery — but most of it due to ignorance. Born to the Reich family, a wealthy merchant Jewish family from Prague, Pearl enabled her husband to pursue his scholarship without worry. She raised seven children, while the rabbi became a highly creative esteemed leader in Jewish law who successfully pioneered scholarly use of source materials based on legends, folklore and aphorisms. Reportedly an intellectual in her own right, Pearl supported her family and her parents while the rabbi traveled frequently to support the yeshiva he established.
When war struck the region in the early 1500’s, Pearl received an unwanted requisition of food by soldiers, from the provisions shop she owned and operated. Unwilling to release the goods without at least a promise of payment, for fear of losing her ability to sustain her kin, Pearl reportedly plead her case to the officer in charge with such passion and eloquence that he offered her a valuable garment as a form of promissory note. He agreed to return payment owed or the rebbetzin would own the garment. Magically, as soon as it became clear he wouldn’t be returning the payment, Pearl discovered valuable gemstones embedded in the garment.
Legend has it that this found treasure released the rebbetzin from the pressures of earning a living and she spent the rest of her days studying topics as diverse as talmud and metaphysics, alongside her husband. It is said she edited the rabbi’s many publications and responded to the copious queries he received. Her grave can be found rightly alongside his in the Jewish cemetery of Prague where they share a tombstone which today is a much visited tourist site.
Photo credit Forward Association