Sigd
Official nameMehlella
Also calledAmata Saww
Observed byIsrael
Date29th day of Cheshvan
2023 dateSunset, 12 November –
nightfall, 13 November
2024 dateSunset, 29 November –
nightfall, 30 November
2025 dateSunset, 19 November –
nightfall, 20 November
2026 dateSunset, 8 November –
nightfall, 9 November

Sigd (ስግድ, 'Prostration', Hebrew: סיגד, also romanized Sig'd[1]), also Mehlella (Ge'ez: ምህላ, lit.'Supplication') or Amata Saww (ዐመተ ሰወ, 'Grouping Day'), is one of the unique holidays of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community, and is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Marcheshvan. Since 2008, it has been an official Israeli state holiday.

Date

Previously, Sigd was celebrated on the 29th of Kislev, and after a calendar reform in the mid-19th century it was moved to its present day, 50 days after Yom Kippur.[2]

Etymology

The word Sigd itself is Ge'ez for "prostration" and is related to Imperial Aramaic: סְגֵד sgēd "to prostrate oneself (in worship)".[3][4] The Semitic root sgd is the same as in mesgid, one of the two Beta Israel Ge'ez terms for "synagogue" (etymologically related to Arabic: مَسْجِد masjid "mosque", literally "place of prostration"), and from the same Semitic root we also have the Hebrew verb לסגוד lisgod, "to worship".

Significance

There are two oral traditions about the origin of Sigd. One tradition traces it to the 6th century, in the time of King Gebre Mesqel of Axum, son of King Kaleb, when the war between Jews and Christians ended and both communities separated from each other.[5] The second tradition traces it to the 15th century as a result of persecution by Christian emperors. The first mention[dubious ] of Sigd is from the 15th century.[6]

Sigd symbolizes the acceptance of the Torah. The kahənat have also maintained a tradition of the holiday arising as a result of persecution by Christian kings, during which the kahənat retreated into the wilderness to appeal to God for His mercy. Additionally, they sought to unify the Beta Israel and prevent them from abandoning the Haymanot (laws and traditions) under persecution. So they looked toward the Book of Nehemiah, taking inspiration from Ezra's presentment of the "book of the law of Moses" before the assembly of Israel after it had been lost during the Babylonian exile.[7]

Historicity

While it is widely thought that Sigd is a holiday particular to Ethiopian Jews, Rabbi Sharon Shalom posits that it was once known to all Jews but was preserved only by the Ethiopian Jewish community,[8] based on Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7:4:

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: By rights, the Eighth Day of Assembly (Shemini Atzeret) should have followed Sukkot after an interval of fifty days, as Shavuot follows Pesaḥ. But since at the Eighth Day of Assembly summer passes into autumn, the time is not suitable for traveling. To what may this be compared? A king had several married daughters, some living nearby, while others were a long way away. One day they all came to visit their father, the king. Said the king: “Those who are living nearby are able to travel at any time. But those who live at a distance are not able to travel at any time. So while they are all here with me, let us make one feast for all of them and rejoice with them.” So with regard to Shavuot, which comes when winter is passing into summer, God says, “The season is fit for traveling.” But the Shemini Atzeret comes when summer is passing into autumn, and the roads are dusty and hard for walking; hence it is not separated by an interval of fifty days. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: “These are not days for traveling; so while they are here, let us make of all of them one festival and rejoice.” Therefore Moses admonishes Israel, saying to them, “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly” (Numbers 29:35).

Event

Traditionally in commemoration of the appeals made by the Kessim and consequent mass gathering, the Beta Israel would make pilgrimages to Midraro, Hoharoa, or Wusta Tsegai (possibly marking locations of relief from Christian persecution) every year to reaffirm themselves as a religious community.[9] Ascending up the mountain ritually commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. [10]

Today, during the celebration, members of the community fast, recite Psalms, and gather in Jerusalem where Kessim read from the Orit (the Octateuch). The ritual is followed by the breaking of the fast, dancing, and general revelry.

Official national holiday in Israel

In February 2008 MK Uri Ariel submitted legislation to the Knesset in order to establish Sigd as an Israeli national holiday,[11] and in July 2008 the Knesset "decided to officially add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays."[12] According to an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, however, "While the qessotch [Kessim] and Beta Israel rabbis are pleased that the Sigd became an official Israeli state holiday in 2008, they would also like the holiday to become an integral part of the yearly Jewish holiday cycle and be embraced by more Jews, at least in Israel, rather than remain a holiday primarily celebrated by the Jewish community from Ethiopia."[13]

Israeli President Isaac Herzog celebrated Sigd with the Ethiopian Jewish community on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in November 2021. In his speech, he hailed Sigd as “a holiday of victory” and praised the Ethiopian Jewish community for its proactive efforts to immigrate to Israel.[14]

See also

References

  1. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine, December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  2. ^ The reform was made by the monk Aba Wudja see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 156.
  3. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine, December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  4. ^ "Strong's Hebrew: 5456. סָגַד (sagad) -- to prostrate oneself (in worship)". biblehub.com.
  5. ^ Ben-Dor, The Sigd of Beta Israel, p. 141; on the separation see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 23 and Kaplan, The Beta Israel, p. 39.
  6. ^ Ben-Dor, p. 141.
  7. ^ Shai Afsai, "What is Sigd?", Times of Israel, November 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Shalom, Sharon; Setbon, Jessica (trans.) (2012). From Sinai to Ethiopia, the halakhic and conceptual world of Ethiopian Jewry. Gefen. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  9. ^ Ashkenazi, Michael, and Alex Weingrod. Ethiopian Jews and Israel. Transaction Publishers, 1987.
  10. ^ Shkalim, Esther. A Mosaic of Israel's Traditions. Devora Publishing Company, 2006. pg. 128.
  11. ^ Israel National News Ethiopian Jewish Sigd Festival to Become National Holiday. February 1, 2008.
  12. ^ Yedioth Ahronoth Ethiopian Sigd Made Official State Holiday. July 2, 2008.
  13. ^ Shai Afsai, “Is world Jewry ready for another holiday?” Jerusalem Post, November 9, 2014. Afsai’s "The Sigd: From Ethiopia to Israel," from which this piece is drawn, appears in the Fall 2014 issue of CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly.
  14. ^ Staff, Arutz Sheva (2021-11-04). "Pres. Herzog: 'We must bring rest of Ethiopian Jews - quickly'". Israel National News. Retrieved 2022-08-18.

Further reading