The paper will analyse a cultural transfer between Jewish and Christian communities at a time of religious change. At the end of the Middle Ages, when many urban Jewish communities faced dissolution, a new custom emerged in Ashkenas. Following a decision of the Maharil, a boy’s swaddling cloth of circumcision was transformed into a long strap embroidered or painted with his Hebrew name, date of birth and a benediction and used as a Torah-binder. As a sacred ritual object, it served as visual sign of remembrance which tied the individual to the teaching of the Torah and to his respective community. Its often elaborate embroidery was regarded also as a sign of female committment to piety, and women more than once requested a so-called Wimpel-Ordnung to show their work in due order. The custom was noticed by some Christian catholic communities, which started to use so-called Taufwindeln and reportedly mirrored a Jewish custom to heighten their piety during times of religious conflict caused by emerging protestantism.
In her magisterial book Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe, Elisheva Carlebach argues that the sifre evronot were a complex cultural phenomenon negotiating, among other things, complex relationships between Jewish and Christian understandings of sacred time and history. These popular books about Jewish-calendar calculations that emerged in early modern Europe replaced the more esoteric calendrical tools that had existed in the Middle Ages. In this paper, I will argue that the 14th-century codex known as Sefer HaZichronot (Oxford, Bodleian MS Heb. d. 11) anticipates many of the elements found in later sifre evronot. Compiled by El’azaar HaLevi somewhere in the Rhinland, this book has been seen as a somewhat mystifying miscellany. I argue that the compiler’s choices – for example, the two Christian calendars that can be found in its pages – can be properly understood in terms of Carlebach’s positioning of later sifre evronot. However, because the Sefer HaZichronot is much more expansive than sifre evronot (including not just calendrical information but complex historical and temporal material of all sorts), it affords us a much deeper picture of Jewish engagement with Christian sacred time and history than Carlebach’s later examples.