From one of the leading historians of the Jewish past comes a stunning look into a previously unexamined dimension of Jewish life and culture: the calendar. In the late sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII instituted a momentous reform of Western timekeeping, and with it a period of great instability. Jews, like all minority cultures in Europe, had to realign their time-keeping to accord with the new Christian calendar.
Elisheva Carlebach shows that the calendar is a complex and living system, constantly modified as new preoccupations emerge and old priorities fade. Calendars serve to structure time and activities and thus become mirrors of experience. Through this seemingly mundane and all-but-overlooked document, we can reimagine the quotidian world of early modern Jewry, of market days and sacred days, of times to avoid Christian gatherings and times to secure communal treasures. In calendars, we see one of the central paradoxes of Jewish existence: the need to encompass the culture of the other while retaining one’s own unique culture. Carlebach reveals that Jews have always lived in multiple time scales, and demonstrates how their accounting for time, as much as any cultural monument, has shaped Jewish life.
After exploring Judaica collections around the world, Carlebach brings to light these textually rich and beautifully designed repositories of Jewish life. With color illustrations throughout, this is an evocative illumination of how early modern Jewish men and women marked the rhythms and realities of time and filled it with anxieties and achievements.
Elisheva Carlebach is Salo W. Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture, and Society at Columbia University.
What People are Saying About This
Focusing on the measure and meaning of time, Elisheva Carlebach has produced a work of enormous importance for all those interested in the convergence of humanistic and scientific knowledge.
Jay Berkovitz, author of Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860
In a brilliant tour de force, Carlebach presents a masterful and penetrating analysis of the Jewish calendar as literature and material object, and as a dynamic, complex expression of cultural values, religious competition, social discipline, and personal meaning.
Lois Dubin, author of The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste
This study of fascinating, richly illustrated manuscripts and early printed books opens up new horizons in the history not only of the Jewish calendar but also of the Hebrew book, Jewish daily life, personal piety, and the engagement of early modern Jews with surrounding Christianity.
Sacha Stern, author of Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar, 2nd Century BCE to 10th Century CE
Jonathan D. Sarna
A remarkable and pioneering study of the Jewish calendar and its significance. Brilliantly researched, gracefully written, and timely -- in every sense of the word.
Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History