Palaces of Time : Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe, by Elisheva Carlebach. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011.
In her new book Prof. Elisheva Carlebach focuses on the role manuscript and printed calendars (sifre evronot) played in the life of pre-modern and early modern European Jews. She notes in her introduction that the schedule of workdays and holidays was “as powerful a sign of cultural influence as any badge, language or physical marker.” Jewish calendars delineated this schedule and differentiated it from that of the surrounding non-Jewish society.
Yet, the calendars did not remain fixed but varied over time and place, reflecting changes with Jewish communities. The book is, among other things, a remarkable reconstruction of the mosaic of Jewish daily life, pieced together from the seemingly unpromising material of calendars. The author delves into the values and personal beliefs reflected in these and into the ways they expressed the attitudes of Jews toward their surroundings.
An especially noteworthy feature is the iconographical analysis of surviving calendars,from which many breathtaking reproductions enhance the book’s physical beauty, and both attract the reader’s attention as well as enhance his understanding.