Culture, Israel, Religion

New Chag: I'm ready to observe!

beta israel
The Ethiopian holiday of Sigd has been formally added to the list of Israeli state holidays. Sigd falls on the 29th of Cheshvan and is observed by fasting, reciting psalms, and “prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and giving thanks for the right to return to the Holy Land.” The fast is broken midday with dancing, food and celebration and a “seder of sorts.” It commemorates the acceptance of Torah and parallels the holiday of Shavuot, falling on the 50th day after Yom Kippur as Shavuot does after Pesach. According to Wikipedia,

however the Kessim have also maintained a tradition of the holiday arising some time in the 15th Century CE as a result of the persecution of Christian Amhara kings. The Kessim retreated into the wilderness in order 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 of Beta Israel) under persecution. So they looked toward the Book of Nehemiah and were inspired by Ezra’s bringing of the “book of the law of Moses” before the assembly of Israel after it had been lost to them due to Babylonian exile. 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 resting places from Christian persecution) every year to reaffirm themselves as a religious community.

According to YNet, all sorts of folks backed the motion – maybe they were all relieved to vote for something pleasant and positive for a change, or perhaps just to find something they could agree abuot- brought before the House by Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) and widely backed by Shas, Meretz, Labor and Likud. Whee!

The motion passed its Knesset readings, effectively becoming a holiday by law. Its main ceremony will be funded by the Prime Minister’s Office; the holiday’s history, traditions and ceremonies will be included in the educational system’s curriculum and going to work during the holiday will be optional.

So, can someone give me a tutorial? I think this sounds like a great new holiday, and it’s about time that the Beta Israel got to contribute a holiday to the rest of the Jewish community.
Nice photo exhibit from Arutz Sheva (image above taken from there) and to balance it, a little article from NACOEJ, with a nice image of Beta Israel women at the Sigd

8 thoughts on “New Chag: I'm ready to observe!

  1. Yeah, why don’t we junk Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim already? We all know that everything stopped when we added Lag Ba’Omer.

  2. I’m a big fan of this one… huge fan in fact. For one, I like that there’s a holiday that actually includes reaching for the soil of Israel. Secondly, if the jewish world is going to keep homogonizing, I’d rather it take from all backgrounds, not just eastern european.

  3. Hey Kvetcher,
    I’m not embracing it because I’m a liberal do-gooder (I am, and proud of it), but because I’m 1. always up for a fun holiday, and this one sounds fun (dancing and food, where do I sign up – are you just a boring old coot or what? Don’t you like to dance?) 2. because there’s no real reason why the Ashkenazim should get to order the world for everyone else all the time, and 3. it’s a real holy day, observed for real reasons, and because it fits neatly into the cycle of the year (unlike, purely for example purposes…Yom Hashoah, which was levered in at an inappropriate time, and not for the best of reasons. Not to get off topic) as was pointed out in several of the articles, it mirrors the spring holiday of the omer ending in Shavuot and in fact its timing has basis in the possible original intentions of the calendar cycle.
    (xp there)

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