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

https://opensiddur.org/?p=3393 שִׁוִּיתִי | Shiviti: perceiving the world as an expression of divine Oneness 2011-06-30 01:33:27 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." Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady Aharon N. Varady Andrew Meit https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ Birkhot haShaḥar Art & Craft Shiviti meditation שויתי shiviti Openers

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



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

  • Avatar photo Alicia Magal

    What does kaf mem bet aleph stand for?

  • […] Shiviti: Perceiving the world as an expression of divine oneness Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2012 at 4:33 pm and tagged with Meditation, Menorah, Psalm 67, Sheviti, Shiviti and posted in Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion, Shiviti, Tefillah. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « Parshat Korach […]

  • […] Enter the Shiviti. This is a Jewish prayer tool that is one part sacred and one part fine art. Names after the line from Psalm 16 I will keep YHVH before me always (Shiviti YHVH) the most classic form is this prayer as a mandala. Two amazing examples are here at the Open Siddur Project: https://opensiddur.org/prayers/praxes/shiviti/shiviti-perceiving-the-world-as-an-expression-of-divin… […]

  • What are “Shivitis”?

    Shiviti (sometimes pronounced “shivisi” in the Ashkenazic tradition) is a name given to a group of liturgical art incorporating a verse from Psalm 16:8. They are made as visual meditations and reminders of the constant presence of God. Its purpose is to inspire one to create an appropriate spiritual attitude (kavannah) when praying. Most of the Shivitis are wall art, plaques, or textiles, but sometimes you can also find them as inserts in siddurim (praying books). The small ones are made in the same way other scribal ritual items are made – on parchment, by hand, using a feather. In the same way, the Torah Scroll or mezuzot inserts are made.

    Mizrach-Shiviti from South Carolina, USA.

    Shiviti from my shul – the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw

    Shiviti from Denmark

    The Traditional Shivitis

    The traditional ones have a menorah (candelabrum) created in the form of micrography (image created using words). The words used in it are from Psalm 67 and have deep spiritual meaning. It also helps that its sentence structure fits perfectly into the shape of the seven-branched menorah. At the top of such piece of art there is always the first half of verse 16:8 from the Tehillim (Book of Psalms), with the name of God written in much bigger letters:

    I am ever mindful of the LORD’s presence.(Lit. “I put the LORD in front of me always”)

    שִׁוִּיﬨִי יְﬣוָﬣ לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד:

    Sometimes, you can find also tiny letters spelling “Adonai” written over the Tetragrammaton (the ineffable, four-letter divine name). In most Shivitis you will find other inspiring verses. Sometimes it might be this verse:

    “Know before whom you stand – before King of the Kings, the Holy One, may He be blessed.”

    דע לפני מי אתה עומד ליפני מלך מלכי המלכים הקבה

    Above, you can see a Shiviti from the Askhenazi synagogue in Safed, Israel.On the left, is the Shiviti from Oswiecim synagogue (the town is better known under its German name – Auschwitz).You can very clearly see at the top the verse “Da lifney…” (“Know before…”) and the beautiful Shiviti verse with big and decorated four-letter name of God.At the bottom is a memorial to a woman in whose name this Shiviti stone was offered to this synagogue. This is not an unlikely situation – quite often the decor in a synagogue was presented as a way to honor the deceased family members.

    It means “Know in front of whom you stand: in front of the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed Be He”. There are also some with the sentence “be’tzad zeh ru’ach chayim”, which might be divided into the four corners, which means “from this side comes the spirit of life”. Yet other designs have verses from Psalms or other Holy Scriptures.

    A beautiful Shiviti from 19th c. Iraq. You can see many symbolic objects or Places (the Jerusalem Temple), Moses and Aharaon, names of Angels and other mystical symbols.


    All of the images above, except for the bottom right image, come from the Wikimedia page (click to see even more examples of Shivitis). All images are used under CC license.

    Linking the age-old tradition with modern art

    Over time, creating Shivitis became a separate branch of Jewish Art. It’s also hard to find a synagogue, which would not have such an image in front of the amud (prayer stand). In the past, they were made by local sopherim (scribes) and often embellished with beautiful floral illustrations, symbols, or mystical marks. Nowadays, they reflect modern styles and are often made using computer software or mixed media. In modern synagogues you will more likely find a much simplified version of Shiviti, often with just one verse. I’ve become inspired by this beautiful tradition and have created my own Shivitis. I’ll feel tremendously proud if any of them find a place on the wall of your home or synagogue. There might be just the thing you were looking for to give as a gift for a wedding, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, rabbinic ordination or many other occasions. Let me know if you would like any customization (the name of your family, synagogue or school, for example).

    Joanna Maria’s Shiviti contemporary designs:

    Simple Shiviti with the sentence “Mitzad zeh ruach chayim” in four corners.

    Delicate watercolor leaves surround Shiviti with the additional verse “Dah lifney mee…” – “Know before whom…”

    Sleek and elegant Shiviti with the verse “Know before whom…” at the top and bottom.

    This Shiviti is decorated with suble watercolor flowers making it perfect gift for a woman or a couple to their new home. At the top and bottom there is the added sentence “Know before whom…”

    Simple Shiviti decorated with a lovely bouquet of watercolor flowers. Adds a tad of femininity to any space.

    Shiviti with the added sentence “Know before whom…” and decorated with the richly symbolic pomegranates. In Hebrew “rimmonim”, this fruit is one of the seven species of Eretz Israel.

    Sample Shiviti products

    Shivitis are either displayed on the eastern wall of a room (synagogue) or placed as an insert in siddurim (prayer books). As they show the full name of God, a special care needs to be taken to ensure the items are treated with respect. Because of it, I’ve created only wall art and similar home decor items that can help display the art. If you like any of the designs, I invite you to visit the three stores where you can see all the available products and learn more about them. I suggest checking out all of them, as they differ in their offer.

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