A Shiviti

A Shiviti

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Morocco, circa 1900. Ink and gouache on paper. This amuletic plaque is decorated with ornamental motifs common to North African ceremonial art, such as pierced archways and scrolling floral arabesques. Of note is the somewhat stylized Four Letter Name of G-d in large, bold black lettering. A Shiviti is a meditative representation of the Temple Menorah used for contemplation over G-d's name. It is usually placed over the amud --- the podium from which the prayer service is led by the cantor. “Shiviti” is the first word in the Hebrew text of Psalms 16:8 meaning “I have placed” and the next word is the Four Letter Name of G-d, which is writ large. The complete verse means “I have placed the Lord always before me”, and is written at the top. This item is meant to enable the worshipper, while praying, to assume an appropriate posture and frame of mind. The Kabbalists observed that Psalms 67 has a sentence structure such that it may be said to figuratively represent the Temple Menorah. The first verse is the title, and it stretches across the entire stand, marking out the burning lamps. Of the actual text which follows, the fourth, middle verse is the longest, and represents the middle trunk and the long supporting shaft. The first and seventh are the next longest, and represent the long outer branches. The remaining inner branches are of equal word length.

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