The dedicatory Hebrew inscription embroidered in the lower border of the present parokhet records that this magnificent textile was the handiwork of the young woman Simhah Viterbo in the year ha-yashar ve-ha-tov = 515 (1755). The curtain features an elaborate central cartouche containing clusters of grapes hanging form vines and surrounded by a lavish border of fruit and floral motifs, including pomegranates, carnations, and roses – all combined to form a dynamic and dramatic pattern. The prominently located clusters of grapes hanging on vines may allude to the biblical metaphor that the Torah is a flowering tree of life to all who grasp it (Prov. 3:18).
The parokhet, hung before the Torah Ark, serves as a partition between the Ark and the prayer hall. The Hebrew term is based on its identification with the curtain of the same name which separated the Holy section of the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Holy of Holies (Ex. 26:31-33; 40:21). According to historical sources, the curtain became a fixture in synagogues during the Middle Ages. This parokhet is an outstanding witness to the textile craft practiced by Jewish women in early modern Italy.
Jacques Charles-Gaffiot, B.P. Edgar Abravanel, et al., Le monde juif: une histoire sainte (Paris: Centre Culturel du Panthéon, 1992), 66-69.
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