web analytics
December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Ethiopian Jewry to Celebrate Annual Sigd Holiday

Sigd means “prostration” or “bowing down” in Ge’ez, the ancient Ethiopian liturgical language.
Ethiopian Jews take part in a the Sigd holiday prayer in Jerusalem.

Ethiopian Jews take part in a the Sigd holiday prayer in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Until the middle of twentieth century, the Jews of Ethiopia lived in almost complete isolation from other Jewish communities across the globe, preserving and developing distinctive religious traditions not found in the rest of Jewry. In the 1980s they began leaving Africa for Israel in the thousands, and at present almost none remain in Ethiopia.

In addition to other challenges, their emigration from Ethiopia to Israel entailed—such as transitioning from village life to living in a more technologically advanced society, and becoming a minority as far as their skin-color—Ethiopian Jews also practiced a form of Judaism that was unfamiliar to most of their coreligionists.

Among Ethiopian Jewry’s unique traditions is the Sigd, an annual holiday which will be celebrated on October 31 this year. On that day, thousands of Ethiopian Jews from across Israel will ascend to Jerusalem, primarily to the Armon Hanatziv Promenade that overlooks the Old City. Since 2008, the Sigd has been an official Israeli state holiday, though it continues to be celebrated mainly by the country’s Jewish community from Ethiopia, which now numbers about 130,000.

On the morning preceding last year’s Sigd celebration, I visited the apartment of one of the oldest qessotch — priests who are the traditional spiritual leaders of Jews from Ethiopia — in Israel. Born in the Gondar district of Ethiopia, seventy-nine-year-old Qes Emaha Negat moved to Israel in 1991, and now lives in the sea-side city of Netanya. Clothed entirely in white, his head wrapped in a white turban, and speaking Hebrew and Amharic, Qes Emaha recounted the biblical events in which the Sigd is rooted.

Sigd means “prostration” or “bowing down” in Ge’ez, the ancient Ethiopian liturgical language. The holiday commemorates and is patterned after events described in the biblical Book of Nehemiah. Chapter 9 records that on the 24th of Tishrei, the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and putting dust on their heads. They read from the Torah for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping God. The 6th century BCE gathering culminated in the Jews publically recommitting themselves to the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

Joined by his wife, Zena Malasa, as well as by his granddaughter, Facika Savhat, Qes Emaha paused in his explanation of the holiday’s origins. He expressed concern that the Sigd has been losing its religious significance in Israel, and is more and more becoming a cultural event. October or November serve up an array of activities and programs connected with Ethiopian Jewry in the lead up to the holiday, but many of them lack a religious framework. “Whoever goes to Jerusalem tomorrow with pure thoughts, candidly, will celebrate the holiday as it should be,” he said. “One must come to serve God and to pray. It’s not just a social gathering.”

One of the first worshipers I encountered in Jerusalem on the morning of the Sigd celebration was Adgo Salehu. Dressed in white and draped in a red, yellow, and green sash, Salehu arrived early at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade, where he located a prime spot to situate his tripod-mounted video camera and record the celebration. On finding out that I had traveled from the United States to participate in the holiday, he smiled broadly. “This day of prayer must not be only for the Jews from Ethiopia, but for the whole nation,” Salehu said. “It is important that the Sigd holiday develops and expands, and that more people join in its celebration.”

During the Sigd, dozens of qessotch assemble at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade on a specially-constructed platform adorned with the flags of Israel and Jerusalem. Some are dressed all in white; others wear cloaks of embroidered gold, blue, purple, or black, adorned with large Stars of David. In addition to multi-colored parasols, the qessotch carry fly whisks and walking sticks, all three items representing their honoured position. Behind them, the stone walls of the Old City glimmer in the sunlight.

Beneath a “Welcome to the Sigd Holiday” banner written in Hebrew and Amharic, the qessotch chant prayers in Ge’ez and Agaw. Biblical passages, including those describing the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and the renewal of the covenant by the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile, are read to the congregation in Ge’ez, and then translated into Amharic, the first language of many members of the Jewish community from Ethiopia.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Ethiopian Jewry to Celebrate Annual Sigd Holiday”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
A clip from"How to Stab a Jew," the latest hit on Arab social media.
‘How to Stab a Jew’ Going Viral on Palestinian Authority Social Media [video]
Latest News Stories

Firemen were surprised to see what caused the fire.

Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with US Senator Lindsey Graham in Jerusalem  Saturday evening.

The South Carolina senator is another Republican thinking about running to succeed Obama

A clip from"How to Stab a Jew," the latest hit on Arab social media.

Arab terrorists have released a “How to kill a Jew” video, and its going viral.

North Korean Leader Kim Jung-Un is not happy with U.S. President Obama. May 12, 2014.

North Korea and Obama are engaged in escalating threats and both are sniping at Sony.

The condition of Ayala Shapira has slightly improved, but her life still is in danger.

Bullet holes in an identifiably Jewish-owned building Friday morning makes this the third such attack on Jews in Paris this week.

Defense Minister Yaalon told Ruth Shapira that the terrorists were caught last night by IDF forces.

The early warning Code Red siren sounded shortly before noon Friday in the area of Netiv Asara and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, sending residents to bomb shelters. The “rocket” apparently was rifle fire from Gaza. Residents also have reported they have heard sounds of tunnels being built underground.

Gov. Mike Pence celebrated Christmas in Israel and staked his credentials for a possible run at the presidency.

A Superdeal branch in Jerusalem ran an exhibition called “Special” with music and entertainment while you shop.

An Afikim bus driving past the Maaleh Shomron junction on Road 55 was stoned by Arabs.

Argentina’s president Christina Fernandez has accepted an official Jewish godson for the first time in the country’s history to help counter legend of death to a seventh son. She described in seven tweets her meeting with her new godson, Yair Tawil, a member of a Chabad-Lubavitch family. He was adopted as a godson under a […]

Israel’s deterrence must be waning as some Iron Domes are being redeployed.

More Articles from Shai Afsai
A copy of the Orit is displayed to worshipers during the 2013 Sigd.

“Sigd” means bowing or prostration in Ge’ez, and the service includes frequent bowing and prostration on the part of worshipers.

Left to right: Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Elder Ovadiah Agbai, and Elder Pinchas Ogbukaa speaking to students at Temple Emanu-El's Religious School.

There are some 3,000 members of the Igbo ethnic group practicing Judaism in Nigeria.

Sigd means “prostration” or “bowing down” in Ge’ez, the ancient Ethiopian liturgical language.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/uncategorized/ethiopian-jewry-to-celebrate-annual-sigd-holiday/2013/10/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: