The representation of God and his physical presence is a complex topic in Judaism. There are cases where God is revealed to man, sometimes through a messenger, or through a miracle such as the burning bush, or the pillar of fire that illuminated the way of the the Israelites when they fled Egypt.
While the Jewish faith forbids depicting God in painting or sculpture, it is interesting to discover, through the language of speech, how present and material God is. God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, he has a home - the Temple. For the believing Jew, the synagogue is to some extent the place where he meets God. Visiting a synagogue, especially when asking for forgiveness, is a special event and should be distinguished by a different behavior.
The stone slab with the words "Know before whom you stand" was taken from the interior of the Great Synagogue of Padova and is dated to the 15th century, which makes it one of the oldest objects in our collection. The pattern that decorates its edge was used by our registrar as the inspiration for this exhibition headline.
A sign "Know before whom you stand" from the great synagogue of Padova
The 15th Century
שלט "דע לפני מי אתה עומד" מבית הכנסת הגדול של פדובה
A sign "Prepare for thy lord Israel"
The 17th Century
Carved and gilded marble
שלט "הכון לקראת אלוהיך ישראל"
שיש חקוק וצבוע זהב