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Celebrating Sigd

Monday, November 1, 2021
Posted by: Rotem Cohen

On November 4, the holiday Sigd will be celebrated in Israel. The Sigd holiday originated from the Ethiopian Jewish community.  Its name is derived from the Hebrew word for prostration (bowing down), "Sgida" (סגידה).
During Sigd (celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan – 50 days after Yom Kippur) the community marks the renewal of the covenant, between the Jewish people, G-d, and the Torah. On Sigd, people pray for a return to Zion, and specifically Jerusalem. The community engages in introspection and reflection - in addition to the individual self-examination on Yom Kippur, this focuses on joint communal behavior. According to tradition, to be worthy of returning to Jerusalem from exile, the community must engage in collective introspection and repentance. Sins of the community members are forgiven during Yom Kippur and for the following 50 days. On the 50th day, the community returns to the experience of Yom Kippur with prayers and a fast.

The origins of the practices of Sigd come from a section of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes the return of the Jewish people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile. This describes the gathering of the people and the renewal of the covenant between G-d and his people of Israel. “On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites assembled, fasting, in sackcloth, and with earth upon them... Standing in their places, they read from the scroll of the Teaching of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed and prostrated themselves before the LORD their God”. Nehemiah 9:1-3 

The Sigd holiday continues to be a major holiday for Israelis of Ethiopian descent. Just like in Ethiopia, when Sigd is celebrated in Israel people gather in central high places. In Israel they all gather in two central places, both in Jerusalem: Armon Hanatziv, and the Western Wall plaza.

In 2008, the Israeli government passed a law to officially make Sigd a national holiday in Israel. Since then, a ceremony is held every year in Jerusalem with the presence of the President, Ministers and Knesset (Israeli parliament) members. Information about the holiday, ceremonies and communal celebrations are provided by schools and various cities. In recent years, the city of Tel Aviv has been hosting a festival called Sigdiada, all about Ethiopian culture, arts and cuisine, centered on the work and creators from the community.

If the history of Ethiopian Jews is of interest to you, please join me for the following events:

  • Sunday , Nov 7 | The Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book & Arts Festival will be playing thefilm, Yerusalem: The Incredible Story of Ethiopian Jewry and viewing the recorded conversation with Danny Adeno Abebe, author of From Africa to Zion: The Shepherd Boy Who Became Israel’s First Ethiopian-born Journalist.  
  • Tuesday, Nov 16 | Hasifriya, the Israeli book club, where we will be discussing the book From Africa to Zion by Danny Adeno Abebe. To attend the book club, please RSVP to me at rcohen@erjcchouston.org
Category: ERJCC Blog

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