In recent years, pre-modern beds have generated extensive scholarly interest. Their social, religious, and economic importance has been rightfully highlighted in the study of domestic piety. Yet, concern has primarily focused on beds in late medieval English homes. This essay uses Hebrew texts from thirteenth-century Southern Germany, primarily Sefer Hasidim, to further this analysis of the role of the bed in shaping medieval domestic devotion. Jewish notions about the social, moral, and sexual significance of the bed reflect those identified in late medieval Christian culture. These ideas inspired numerous rituals practiced in Jewish homes. Yet, the bed and the remnants of sex assumed to be found in it also frustrated Jewish attempts to perform domestic devotion. These findings highlight the complicated nature of the home and how medieval people had to navigate both its opportunities and challenges in order to foster a rich culture of domestic devotion.
This essay examines similarities between the Hebrew chronicle of Shlomo bar Shimshon and the Latin chronicle of Albert of Aachen. Both sources describe the massacre of Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade and the subsequent defeat of the Crusaders by the Hungarians and the Bulgarians. On the basis of similarities in structure, content, and language between these two accounts, I argue that Shlomo chose to integrate at least one Christian source into his narrative. At the same time, I assert that it is unlikely that Shlomo’s Hebrew account was translated directly from Albert’s Latin chronicle. I present evidence indicating that the information conveyed in the Latin text reached the Jewish chronicler via vernacular channels, either oral or written. This is a pre-print of an article published in Jewish History. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10835-018-9288-2
This article discusses the ways scholars have outlined the process of Jewish adaptation (or lack of it) from their Christian surroundings in northern Europe during the High Middle Ages. Using the example of penitential fasting, the first two sections of the article describe medieval Jewish practices and some of the approaches that have been used to explain the similarity between medieval Jewish and contemporary Christian customs. The last two sections of the article suggest that in addition to looking for texts that connect between Jewish and Christian thought and beliefs behind these customs, it is useful to examine what medieval Jews and Christians saw of each other's customs living in close urban quarters. Finally, the article suggests that when shaping medieval Jewish and Christian identity, the differences emphasized in shared everyday actions and visible practice were no less important than theological distinctions. As part of the discussion throughout the article, the terminology used by scholars to describe the process of Jewish appropriation from the local surroundings is described, focusing on terms such as “influence” and “inward acculturation,” as well as “appropriation.”