☞   //   Prayers & Praxes   //   Praxes   //   Shiviti

שִׁוִּיתִי | Shiviti: perceiving the world as an expression of divine Oneness

Image: המנורה כתובה by Ba'al haKokhav, converted to vector art by Andrew Meit (CC0)

Given that the Torah forbids impressing our imaginations with illustrations of the divine, some other method is necessary to perceive divine Oneness. One method is found in the verse in Psalms 16:8, “I have set YHVH before me at all times.”

שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד׃

Shiviti YHVH l’negdi tamid
I have set YHVH before me at all times.

But does the verse enjoin one to perceive divine Oneness at all times, or to ponder the Tetragrammaton (the ineffable, four letter divine name) at all times, or to perceive the world as an expression of a Divine Name writ in nature? This ambiguity is at the root of the tradition of the Shiviti, a recursive illustration of the verse’s meaning set as a visual meditation and reminder. Because the object of any given practice is to condition behavior through repetition, the practice of perceiving the world as an expression of divine Oneness can begin as soon as one gains consciousness, and this is where Psalms 16:8 enters into the morning liturgy. Shmueli Gonzales explains more in his post on the Shiviti,

Those of you who have visited any Jewish shrines know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention charts and mystical diagrams. We call them Shiviti and they often take on the form on an enlarged writing of the Four-Letter name surrounded by verses of Psalms or prayers. The most famous of these is probably Psalms 67 drawn in the shape of a menorah. Others incorporate many mystical ways of reading Divine Names, but that are not meant to be pronounced.

Now one might ask, how intrusive into the text of the siddur can these mandala like meditations be? I mean, if they are useful why are they left out of the Baal haTanya’s siddur? You might say, who is he to leave out these things that are so authentic and sacred? Well, if we use a siddur as a seder (an order) of prayers and devotions, and go through it from waking up to going to sleep, then the first occurrence of shiviti is at the beginning of the siddur. That’s right. When one wakes up they are to immediately have in mind this verse “I have set haShem before me at all times.” For this reason in many Sephardic and Edut haMizrach siddurim the first words you will see is these words “shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid.” [Read more at Shmuel’s blog, Hardcore Mesorah.]

This particular shiviti was originally drawn by a sopher (scribe) in Israel under the pseudonym, בעל הכוכב and shared on a popular message board with the intention “** חובה בכל בית **” — “It’s a duty [to place this] in every home.” Thank you to Andrew Meit for converting this shiviti from a raster image to a vector art SVG. With attribution to this psuedonymous sopher, and respecting his intention for sharing the shiviti he drew, with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) Public-domain dedication of the derivative vector art.

DOWNLOAD: Original | SVG | PNG

 PDF (or Print)



5 comments to שִׁוִּיתִי | Shiviti: perceiving the world as an expression of divine Oneness

Comments, Corrections, and Queries