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Title: Sigd  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Haymanot, Public holidays in Israel, Novy God, Kislev, Tu BiShvat seder
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A Kes at the Sigd in Jerusalem, 2008.
Official name Mehlella
Also called Amata Saww
Observed by Israel
Date 29th day of Cheshvan

Mehlella (Ge'ez: ምህልላ, Hebrew: "מֶהֶללַה"‎; "Supplication"), also Amata Saww (ዐመተ ሰወ; "עמתה סו"; "Grouping Day") or in its popular name Sigd (ሰግድ, "סיגד"; "Prostration"[1]), is one of the unique holidays of Beta Israel community. Celebrated on the 29th of [the Hebrew month of] Cheshvan. Since 2008, it is recognized as a state holiday for all Israelis.

Previously, Sigd was celebrated on the 29th of Kislev, and after a calendar reform it was moved to its present day, 50 days after Yom Kippur.[2] Originally Sigd was another name for Yom Kippur[3] and after the reform that reunited them, the holiday was called by its present name.

There are two oral traditions about the origin of Sigd. One tradition traces it to the 6th century in the time of the Aksumite king Gebre Mesqel when the war between Jews and Christians ended and both communities separated from each other.[4] The second tradition traces it to the 15th Century as a result of persecution by Ethiopian-Christian Emperors. The first mention of Sigd is from the 15th century.[5]

Sigd symbolizes the acceptance of the Torah. Kessim have also maintained a tradition of the holiday arising as a result of persecution by Christian kings, during which the Kessim retreated into the wilderness 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 presenting the "book of the law of Moses" before the assembly of Israel after it had been lost to them during 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 relief from Christian persecution) every year to reaffirm themselves as a religious community[6]

The word Sigd itself is Ge'ez for "prostration" and is akin to the Aramaic seged.[7] The root letters s-g-d are also the same as in Mesgid (etymologically related to Masjid in another Semitic tongue - Arabic (s-j-d), and identical to the Hebrew root s-g-d, or "worship"), one of the two Beta Israel terms for "synagogue". During the celebration, members of the community fast, recite Psalms, and gather in Jerusalem where Kessim read from the Orit. The ritual is followed by the breaking of the fast, dancing, and general revelry. In February 2008 MK Uri Ariel submitted legislation to the Knesset in order to establish Sigd as an Israeli national holiday,[8] and in July 2008 the Knesset officially "decided to officially add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays."[9]


  1. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine,December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  2. ^ The reform was made by the monk Aba Wudja see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 156
  3. ^ Aaron Ze'ev Aešcoly, "law and custom among the Jews of Abyssinia (Falasha) in the light of the rabbinic and Karaite Halakha", p. 132 (Hebrew)
  4. ^ Ben-Dor, The Sigd of Beta Israel, p. 141; on the separation see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 23 and Kaplan, The Beta Israel, p. 39
  5. ^ Ben-Dor, p. 141
  6. ^ Ashkenazi, Michael, and Alex Weingrod. Ethiopian Jews and Israel. Transaction Publishers, 1987.
  7. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine,December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  8. ^ Israel National News Ethiopian Jewish Sigd Festival to Become National Holiday. February 1, 2008
  9. ^ Yedioth Ahronoth Ethiopian Sigd Made Official State Holiday. July 2, 2008

Further reading

  • Wolf Leslau, Falasha Anthology, Yale University Press, 1951
  • Kay Kaufman Shelemay, "Seged, a Falasha Pilgrimage Festival", Musica Judaica, Vol. lII, 1, pp. 42–62.
  • Jon G. Abbink,"Segd Celebration in Ethiopia and Israel: Continuity and Change of a Falasha Religious Holiday", Anthropos, Vol. 78, 1983, pp. 789–810
  • Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Music, Ritual, and Falasha History, Michigan State University Press, 1986, ISBN 978-0-87013-274-2
  • Shoshana Ben-Dor, "The Sigd of Beta Israel: Testimony To A Community In Transition" in Michael Ashkenazi and Alex Weingrod (Editors), Ethiopian Jews and Israel, Transaction Publishers, 1987, ISBN 978-0-88738-133-1, p. 140 - 159
  • James Arthur Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews: A History of the Beta Israel (Falasha) to 1920, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8122-3116-8
  • Shai Afsai, “Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival,” AMI Magazine, December 5, 2012, pp. 78-85.

External links

  • "The Jewish Agency for Israel page", a brief description of the holiday from the Department of Zionist Education
  • Shai Afsai, “The Sigd Festival comes home to Jerusalem,” [1], Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12, 2012
  • "Photos of Sigd", by Danny Yanai
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