The Course of Life – Derech Chajim
On September 7th, 2009 it will be 400 years since the death of the renowned rabbi called Jehuda Leva ben Becalel known in Bohemia and Moravia as the legendary rabbi Loew – the creator of Golem - and in the Jewish world known under the acronym of Maharal. This anniversary is commemorated all over the world. The focus of its celebration is now Prague where he is buried.
The Jewish Museum in Prague together with the Administration of the Prague Castle have prepared a great representative exhibition called after one of his works – Derech Chajim or The Course of Life / Rabbi Jehuda Leva ben Becalel (c. 1525 – 1609). It depicts Maharal’s life and work as well as the image created by his own and by the following generations.
The Maharal of Prague
The Jewish rabbi and scholar Judah Loew ben Bezalel is a significant historic person. He served in the position of leading land rabbi in Mikulov and later in Prague. He founded and led a Talmudic school – yeshiva in the Prague Jewish Ghetto and set up the regulations for the chevra kadisha – burial society. An established authority and expert in the Torah and the Jewish religion, he is compared to J. A. Komenský not only for his opinions as a teacher. His interest in alchemy was the likely reason for his audience with the Emperor Rudolf II. The life of the Rabbi Loew is covered with numerous stories and legends, the best known of which is the legend of the Prague Golem.
The exhibition in Prague
It offers two levels: historical and legendary. The historical level represents tens of archive documents including period issues of rabbi Loew’ s works. The legendary level shows how legends are born and how they change our contemporary views of history because some of them are so deeply rooted in us that we do not want to give them up.
Here the most interesting exhibit is a chalice with imbricate decoration which is believed to have belonged to the rabbi and which is the only item in the collections of the Jewish Museum that is related to him. The whole atmosphere of the Jewish Prague in the reign of Emperor Rudolf II can be experienced there.
The exhibition takes place in Robert Guttmann Gallery (Galerie Roberta Guttmanna) in Prague from 5th August to 8th November 2009. There is also an accompanying programme of an interactive installation called Golem by artist Petr Nikl.
The exhibition catalogue in Czech and English was published in co-operation with Academia publishing house.Olga Szymanská
Translation by Marie Dolansky
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