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Year of Jewish Culture - 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague

The project is held under the auspices of the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic Vítězslav Jandák, Chairman of the House of Representatives Lubomír Zaorálek, Chairman of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka, Mayor of the City of Prague Pavel Bém and Václav Havel.

About Motif


Lion motif with Psalm 104 and a quotation from the Mishnah (Pirke avot 5:23)

The lion motif, which comprises selected verses from Psalm 104 and a Mishnah quotation, is part of a shiviti plaque made by Gabriel Engel in 1855 (see below for a detailed description). In Judaism, the lion plays an important role as a symbol of kingship, strength and power. The motif is often used as a metaphor, symbol or emblem in Jewish literature, visual arts and trademarks of Jewish corporations or individuals. It occurs in many places in the Bible, including Genesis 49:9-10.

Shiviti with prayers for the cantor
probably Moravia, Gabriel ben Menahem Engel, 1855
paper ink and watercolours
acq. no. 1995/1416

Shiviti plaques (from Heb. Shiviti Adonai le-negdi tamid, “I have set God always before me”, see Psalm 16:8) are calligraphic pictures comprising Hebrew verses and the symbol of the seven-branched candelabrum. They are intended to help the synagogue cantor to keep his thoughts concentrated and pure during the act of prayer, but also serve as amulets, protecting both the synagogue and the congregation. Shivitis are based upon the teachings of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).
In addition to Kabbalistic prayers – to be recited upon entering the synagogue and before the service begins – this shiviti also contains a passage from the Mishnah (Pirke Avot 5:23) “Be strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and brave as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven”. The latter part of this quotation – referring to the requirement that man be swift as a deer and brave as a lion when fulfilling God’s will – is written as a micrograph and comprises the mane of two little lions along the sides of Psalm 16:8. The animals referred to in the Mishnaic quotation (represented here by a pair of lions) often adorn works of Jewish religious art. The verses of Psalms 104:18-19 and 21-29 form the lion’s body on the right; the verses of Psalms 22:22-26 and 17:12-15 form the lion’s body on the left.
Above the verse of Psalm 16:8 is a popular maxim: “Repentance, prayer and charity temper a severe decree.” Next to it are cryptograms that represent the above concepts: tzom (fasting), qol (voice) and mamon (money). Along the side runs the text of a memento mori:
“Man fears that he will lose money,
but fears not that his days are hastening on.
Money will not help
and the days will not return.
Who hears this will cry,
fear and lament, and call for mercy.”
This shiviti was written by Gabriel Engel who donated it to his (now unknown) synagogue. The original, unpreserved frame was donated by “the accomplished scholar, Mr. Yaakov Adler, who is full of virtue as a pomegranate and as a date palm, son of Rabbi (?) Tzvi.” It seems probable that the shiviti was made in Moravia.
Psalm 104
1917 Jewish Publication Societies' English translation of the Bible

104:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul. O the Lord my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with glory and majesty.
104:2 Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain;
104:3 Who layest the beams of Thine upper chambers in the waters, who makest the clouds Thy chariot, who walkest upon the wings of the wind;
104:4 Who makest winds Thy messengers, the flaming fire Thy ministers.
104:5 Who didst establish the earth upon its foundations, that it should not be moved for ever and ever;
104:6 Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains.
104:7 At Thy rebuke they fled, at the voice of Thy thunder they hasted away--
104:8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down--unto the place which Thou hadst founded for them;
104:9 Thou didst set a bound which they should not pass over, that they might not return to cover the earth.
104:10 Who sendest forth springs into the valleys; they run between the mountains;
104:11 They give drink to every beast of the field, the wild asses quench their thirst.
104:12 Beside them dwell the fowl of the heaven, from among the branches they sing.
104:13 Who waterest the mountains from Thine upper chambers; the earth is full of the fruit of Thy works.
104:14 Who causeth the grass to spring up for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; to bring forth bread out of the earth,
104:15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, making the face brighter than oil, and bread that stayeth man's heart.
104:16 The trees of the Lord have their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, which He hath planted;
104:17 Wherein the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir-trees are her house.
104:18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the conies.
104:19 Who appointedst the moon for seasons; the sun knoweth his going down.
104:20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
104:21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God.
104:22 The sun ariseth, they slink away, and couch in their dens.
104:23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
104:24 How manifold are Thy works, O the Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy creatures.
104:25 Yonder sea, great and wide, therein are creeping things innumerable, living creatures, both small and great.
104:26 There go the ships; there is leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to sport therein.
104:27 All of them wait for Thee, that Thou mayest give them their food in due season.
104:28 Thou givest it unto them, they gather it; Thou openest Thy hand, they are satisfied with good.
104:29 Thou hidest Thy face, they vanish; Thou withdrawest their breath, they perish, and return to their dust.
104:30 Thou sendest forth Thy spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth.
104:32 Who looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; He toucheth the mountains, and they smoke.
104:33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.
104:34 Let my musing be sweet unto Him; as for me, I will rejoice in the Lord.
104:35 Let sinners cease out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah.
104:31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; let the Lord rejoice in His works!


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