Illuminating the Account of Creation

Tu B’Shevat Lecture featuring Prof. Sara Offenberg


Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, 9:00 am (Zoom)

In this special online Tu B’Shevat lecture Professor Sara Offenberg of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, Israel, spoke on “Let the Earth Sprout Vegetation”: Illuminating the Account of Creation (Ma’aseh Breshit) in Hebrew Manuscripts from Ashkenaz.

Creation is one of the principal scenes portrayed in illuminated Bibles from the 13th century onward. Hebrew illuminated manuscripts reflect an iconographical relationship to the images in Christian art as well as to a Jewish exegetical understanding of the biblical text. Prof. Offenberg will point at a phenomenon that while the visualization of Creation in Ashkenazi manuscripts is missing, the notion of ‘Ma’aseh Breshit’ (מעשה בראשית), the account of Creation, and ‘Ma’aseh ha-Mishkan’ ((מעשה המשכן/המקדש, the account of the Tabernacle as well as the Temple is taking place, be it as a replacement or as a choice to enhance this notion. In this lecture, she will examine Creation scenes in light of Jewish-Christian medieval relations in Ashkenaz (the German lands and France), against a background of contemporary textual and artistic evidence.

We thank Professor Offenberg for generously contributing to the learning of our congregation and helping us celebrate Tu B’Shevat in this wonderful, scholarly way.

Dr. Offenberg is an associate professor in the Department of the Arts and Managing Editor, Mabatim: Journal of Visual Culture Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

She holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. with Summa cum laude from the Department of Jewish Thought and the Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She published in books of collected articles and several Journals. Her major publications include two books: Illuminated Piety: Pietistic Texts and Images in the North French Hebrew Miscellany, Los Angeles 2013; Up in Arms: Images of Knights and the Divine Chariot in Esoteric Ashkenazi Manuscripts of the Middle Ages, Los Angeles 2019. Between 2014-2017 she was co-editor of the journal Ars Judaica: The Bar-Ilan Journal of Jewish Art. Since 2021 she is managing editor of Mabatim: Journal of Visual Culture. Her research focuses on Chivalry and warriors in Hebrew manuscripts; German Pietists; Hebrew illuminated prayer books; Jewish-Christian relations in medieval art and literature.