Description This rare wooden panel comes from the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, where it formed one of the small hinged doors of a Torah Shrine, a special cupboard, also known as an ark, which holds the sacred Jewish Scripture. An inscription carved into the door is particularly appropriate for this purpose: "Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord" (Psalm 118:19). Made in the middle of the eleventh century, this covering for a Torah shrine was carved in wood, and traces of paint and gold suggest that the carved patterns were enhanced with rich color at some point. The forms of these patterns, with elaborate vine scrolls and lozenges, show the influence of Islamic art resulting from the Arab conquest of Egypt in the seventh century.
- Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue . The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Yeshiva University Museum, New York. 2013-2014.
- A Cosmopolitan Community: Muslims, Christians, & Jews in Old Cairo. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago. 2015.
Provenance Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo [removed during renovation, ca. 1900]; Estate auction house, Oakland Park, Florida, by purchase; Barry Ragone, Miami, Florida, 1993, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2000, by purchase [in conjunction with Yeshiva University Museum, New York City].
Inscriptions [Transcription] Side A: פִּתְחוּ-לִי שַׁעֲרֵי-צֶדֶק Open to me the gates of righteousness (Psalm 118:19); [Transcription] זֶה-הַשַּׁעַר לַיהוָה ; [Translation] This is the gate of the LORD (Psalm 118:20); [Transcription] Side B: יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ ; [Translation] The LORD bless thee, and keep thee (Numbers 6:24); [Transcription] יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ ; [Translation] The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee (Numbers 6:26)
Credit Jointly owned by the Walters Art Museum (funds provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund, 2000) and Yeshiva University Museum (funds provided by the Jesselson Foundation)
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