Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO
Prime Minister Netanyahu celebrates the Mimuna in Or Akiva, April 15, 2009.

Shabbat was over at 7:40 PM, and although the Passover holiday had ended on Friday at dusk, the day of rest was a de facto eighth day of Passover, since there was no time to cook leavened breads ahead of time, and so the Mimouna celebrations had to wait until Saturday night this year.

According to Rabbi Ari Enkin, the Mimouna commemorates Maimonides’ father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, who was either born or died, or both, on the day after Passover. Maimon was known for his work on Muslim-Jewish relations in Morocco (which didn’t prevent the family from having to flee the country eventually).

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Rabbi Enkin offers a second source for the name – the Arabic word “Mimoun,” for “wealth” and “good luck,” or from the Hebrew word “emuna,” meaning “faith” – all three elements that are vital, we believe, for a nation that had just emerged from a week of eating mostly matzo. Also, on this day, according to midrash, the gold and jewelry of the drowned Egyptians washed up on the shore of the Sea of Reeds and was picked up by the Israelites.

Some believe that this day is opportune for earning a living and finding a mate, which is why couples used to ask for special permission to get married on the Mimouna, even though it falls on the solemn days of the Sefirah between Passover and Shavuot. Which explains the traditional Minouna blessing, “Tirbechu v’tis’adu,” “be fortunate and happy” – a blessing for young newlyweds.

Some claim that the origin of the Mimouna is in the Berber culture in Morocco, which worshiped a demon named Mimouna, or the goddess of fertility and fortune Mimouna (take your pick).

The celebration begins after nightfall, and in many communities in Morocco, gentile neighbors would sell the chametz back to Jewish families at the start of the holiday. Moroccan and Algerian Jews open their homes to visitors, setting out a lavish spread of cakes and sweetmeats.

The “mofletta” served at Mimouna celebrations

One holiday favorite is the Mofletta crêpe, made from flour, water and oil. It’s basically the ultimate, pure chametz you may have been fantasizing about since the seder. The dough is rolled out thinly and cooked in a greased frying pan until it turns golden brown. It is eaten warm, spread with butter, honey, syrup, jam, walnut, pistachios and dried fruits.

In Israel, the Mimouna is a popular holiday, with outdoor picnics, BBQs, and, inevitably, visits from politicians looking to connect to the masses. Hundreds of thousands flock to the central celebration in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park, featuring the president and the prime minister.

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