Clep­sy­dra: Essay on the Plu­ral­i­ty of Time in Judaism

Sylvie Anne Gold­berg; Ben­jamin Ivry, trans.
  • From the Publisher
January 5, 2017

The clep­sy­dra is an ancient water clock and serves as the pri­ma­ry metaphor for this exam­i­na­tion of Jew­ish con­cep­tions of time from antiq­ui­ty to the present. Just as the flow of water is sub­ject to a num­ber of vari­ables such as tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure, water clocks mark a time that is shift­ing and rel­a­tive. Time is not a uni­form phe­nom­e­non. It is a social con­struct made of beliefs, sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge, and polit­i­cal exper­i­ment. It is also a sto­ry told by the­olo­gians, his­to­ri­ans, philoso­phers, and astrophysicists.

Con­se­quent­ly, Clep­sy­dra is a cul­tur­al his­to­ry divid­ed in two parts: nar­rat­ed time and mea­sured time, recount­ed time and count­ed time, absolute time and ordered time. It is through this dia­log that Sylvie Anne Gold­berg chal­lenges the idea of a uni­fied Judeo-Chris­t­ian time and asks, What is Jew­ish time?” She con­sults bib­li­cal and rab­binic sources and refers to medieval and mod­ern texts to under­stand the dif­fer­ent sorts of con­scious­ness of time found in Judaism. In Jew­ish time, Gold­berg argues, past, present, and future are inter­twined and com­prise one per­pet­u­al narrative.

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