Obj. ID: 48461 Shiviti, Marrakech (Marrakesh), circa 1880
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.
An elegantly designed, drawn and painted Shiviti from Morocco, this sheet has on the two sides of the Menorah depitions of hands, hamsas carrying the priestly blessing. The image of the Menorah and the Temple implements conveys the memory of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The red and green colors used are found on a large number of illustrated documents from Morocco. Comparison with another manuscript, MO.011.017, in the Gross Family Collection, hints at the possible origin in Marrakesh. Both colors have amuletic protective value as well. The vegetal scrolling around the entire page has flowers or leaves that have five elements, again reflecting the idea of hamsa.
There is a long dedication inscription below in honor of Massoud Elkayam. Below the Menorah on the right hand side is a symbol of an item from the temple, but that is here patterned after a gun-powder flask for a Morrocan warrior. The Elkayam family is a prominent family of Rabbis from the city of Marrakech. However the name Massoud Elkayam is written on a place from which the original name had been erased. The name is written in a different ink that the rest of the inscription as well. Elkayam lived at the beginning of the 20th century, while the style and writing is of a period some 100 years earlier.
The inscription indicates that this man was familiar with both the king and ministers, and the wish is expressed in the inscription that he should find favor in the eyes of the king and ministers.
There is another Shiviti dedicated to Masoud Elkayam, Gross Collection No. 058.011.037, but from a much later date.