The Ethiopian Holiday of SigdNow Sigd celebrates not just the acceptance of the Torah but also the return to the homeland of Israel, and the hope that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem will someday be rebuilt.
What is the Sigd Holiday?
“Sigd” is an Amharic word for prostrating oneself, but it is also associated with the word “Mesjid,” or temple.
When the Ethiopian Jews were living in Africa, Sigd was a day of fasting. During the day, they would form a procession and climb to the high point of a mountain, carrying the Ethiopian Torah, or the “Orit.” There they would read portions from the Book of Nehemia and recite Psalms and prayers. This ceremony represented an acceptance of the Torah—the mountain represented Mount Sinai, where the Torah is traditionally believed to have been given by God to the Jewish people.
Upon descending the mountain, they would then break their fast amid music and dancing, with solemnity giving way to joy.
Celebrating the Sigd Holiday in Jerusalem
Today, the Sigd holiday as it is celebrated in Jerusalem has a different identity from that which was celebrated in Ethiopia. Now thousands of Ethiopian Jews gather in Jerusalem, the Holy City of Judaism. Ethiopian rabbis, which are called Kessim, wear ritual white garb as they lead the vast procession to the Armon Hanetziv Promenade which overlooks the Old City and Temple Mount.
A ceremony which was once dedicated to acceptance of the Torah now has an added layer of meaning: it is also a celebration of the Holy City, and a prayer of longing for the return of the Holy Temple to Jerusalem.
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