UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Medieval Monographs On The Jewish Calendar

An AHRC-Funded Major Research Project


The calendar was an important part of medieval Jewish culture, which is why it is described in detail in so many medieval manuscripts. In the early part of the 12th century, several Hebrew monographs on the Jewish calendar were composed in Spain and in France by eminent scholars and rabbis: Abraham b. Hiyya, Jacob b. Shimshon, and Abraham ibn Ezra. These Sifrei ha-Ibbur represented, it seems, a new literary genre that blended astronomy, mathematics, and science with religious norms and rabbinic tradition.

The purpose of the project is to increase understanding and promote the study of medieval writings on the Jewish calendar, by providing access to these neglected and largely unpublished works. This will be achieved through the study of the manuscripts and the preparation of an edition of the three Sifrei ha-Ibbur with text and critical apparatus, translation, and commentary. The broader context of these works in relation to Hebrew codicology, medieval rabbinic literature, medieval astronomy, and other, non-Jewish calendars, will also be explored.

The project is funded by an AHRC award of £732,243, running from October 2008 to March 2013. It is led by Professor Sacha Stern (as Principal Investigator) and two Postdoctoral Research Associates, Dr Israel Sandman and Dr Ilana Wartenberg. Together they form a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in Jewish calendars, text edition, and medieval mathematics (respectively). Plans are being made to expand the project to the study of other medieval texts and manuscripts on the Jewish calendar, through further fundraising and recruitment of expert researchers.

Students associated with the project include Dr Kineret Sittig, who is working as PhD student on Abraham ibn Ezra’s Iggeret ha-Shabbat. Further, prospective PhD students on any aspect of the Jewish calendar, or of late Antique and medieval other calendars, are strongly encouraged to apply.

A series of thematic workshops, with the contribution of experts from the UK and overseas, is running through the duration of the project. Workshop themes range from codicology and text edition to medieval astronomy and calendars. Workshops are open to the public free of charge; students and academic staff are particularly encouraged to attend.