Obj. ID: 48417 Shiviti, Germany, circa 1825
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.
This is a very aesthetic rendition of a shiviti in the size of a prayer book, including the 67th Psalm in the form of a menorah and an attractive presentation of the 42 letter name of God on the two sides of the menorah. Around the circle containing the Tetragrammaton are four animals very reminiscent of Medaevel manuscript illustration. The letters of the large tetragrammaton in the center are particularly well drawn using Gothic Hebrew letters. This is one of several of this form of shiviti. Either they are all by the same scribre/artist or it was copied down to the last detail. It appears in the first literature about Jewish art in the Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft zur Erforschung Juedischer Kunstdenkmaeler (V/VI, 1909) from Frankfurt. There are three such shivitis in the Gross Family Collection and others in various other collections.