Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Religion

By Helene Wecker


"These were the world's first people. Everything they did, every action and decision, was entirely new, without precedent." (4.32)

The Golem wonders if Adam and Eve are real because everything seems so simple. This is the Rabbi's explanation of the simplicity, and in making this point, we can see the Golem and the Jinni as analogous to Eve and Adam. They too are young, unique creatures, and their actions are without precedent.

"Where is it written that a man must turn his back on his faith to do good in the world?" (6.50)

The Rabbi isn't able to look at Michael's good deeds without seeing the fact that Michael turned his back on his religion. Shouldn't he appreciate all the charitable deeds Michael does, and forgive him?

"I look at what we call faith, and all I see is superstition and subjugation. All religions. Not just Judaism." (6.56)

We wish that Michael and Chava had time to talk about faith (or lack of it) during the short marriage later in the book, because they would find a lot in common in that area.

"And this is what angels look like?" "I supposed," she said. "Or perhaps, this is one way of picturing them. It all depends on what you believe." (7.58)

The Jinni finds it fascinating how humans sculpt creatures they've never seen. How do they know what angels look like?

Did [the Golem] also have a soul? (10.107)

This is an interesting question even from a non-religious standpoint. Is the Golem human? Does she have a consciousness? What does any of this stuff even really mean? Does it matter?

Do you think [the water goddess] really exists? Fadwa had asked her father. And he had smiled, and said, When so many others believe in her, who am I to say otherwise? (11.59)

It's interesting that Fadwa's pops is so cryptic about this particular religious belief, when he denies ever seeing the Jinni to her… and he saw the Jinni. We doubt he's ever seen the water goddess.

Mount Lebanon's Turkish overlords had long made a game of pitting its Christian and Jewish populations against each other, forcing them to compete for Muslim favor. The disagreements had at times turned bloody and edged into riot. (12.68)

Arbeely fears these religious and cultural differences will bleed over into New York City, especially when the two strangest citizens—the Golem and the Jinni—start associating with one another. New York City isn't exactly the melting pot many think it is, and people are still divided along many lines, including religious ones.

May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. […] Why "among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem"? Why not "among the mourners of the world"? So parochial, so small-minded. (12.97)

This is one of the reasons that Michael has stepped away from his religion: He feels that it's exclusive, not inclusive. And this is at a funeral that women aren't allowed to attend, so yeah, he has a point.

Faith is believing in something even without proof, because you know it in your heart to be true. (13.9)

Does faith mean anything? After all, if people don't believe in jinnis or golems, at least within in the context of the story, they still exist. Who does faith really matter to?

He had accepted as truth that his wife was a clay creature brought to life by—what? The will of God? Must he believe in God now, if he was to make sense of this? (27.97)

The Jinni uses this as an excuse for not believing in God. But the Golem is also a human invention, and she exists.

Were [Maryam] anyone else, the idea of a Maronite woman taking in an Eastern Orthodox child would have made for scandal, even outrage. (23.13)

Maryam Faddoul, and her warm, outgoing personality, seems to be able to cross any religious boundaries. Or maybe it's the fact that she operates a coffee shop. Coffee = world peace.