Obj. ID: 48416 Shiviti, Marrakech (Marrakesh), 1771
The following description was prepared by William Gross:
The Shiviti plaque takes its name from a phrase in the Psalms, "Shiviti Adonai Lenegdi Tamid". "I will always hold the Lord before me." During morning prayers, the 67th Psalm is read as a part of the liturgy. The making of such visual pages to augment the reading started almost 500 years ago. It began because of a particular story or legend. The custom relates that if one gazes on the form of the Menorah while reciting the Psalm, or reads the Psalm written in the form of a Menorah, the person is carried back to the Temple, standing before the golden Temple Menorah itself. To complete the illusion, some of the Temple implements were often illustrated. The mysticism of the idea is clear, and the Shiviti page is often filled with Kabbalistic abbreviations as well as the Menorah form. Sometimes, depending on the size and complexity of the image, other texts read during the time of prayer are also presented on the sheet.
Such pages appear as small sheets to be inserted into a prayer book and taken out when the psalm is recited or as large pages to be hung on the wall of the synagogue for the viewing by the whole congregation. The sheet was also used on the wall of a home or Sukkah. Later still, the Shiviti could be printed in the prayer book or painted on the wall of the synagogue. There are numerous examples of both the prayer book tradition and the wall plaque tradition in the Gross Family Collection.
The dating of 1771 in the inscription makes this an extremely early Shiviti plaque from Morocco, at least the earliest in the Gross Family Collection. The menorah form with the 67th psalm has at its base some of the temple instruments. Below that are a representation of two hands, which perhaps reflect both the hands of the Cohanim and the popular Moroccan symbol of the hamsa. On the two sides of the menorah is inscribed the 42 letter name of god, derived from the first letter of the 42 words of the "Ana Be-Koach" hymn. Surrounding the whole are geometric and vegetal designs in in subtle colors. The coloring and the stylistic forms in the decoration of this manuscript hint at the possible origin in Marrakesh.
Artist: Ya'akov ben Elisha