Sigd: Commemorating the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of receiving the Torah
The Ethiopian Jewish Holiday of Sigd begins at sundown on Sunday November 15, 50 days after Yom Kippur, and commemorates the Jews receiving The Torah and become closer to G-d. Sigd has been described as a Zionist holiday due to the tradition of Ethiopian Jews embracing the desire to return to Jerusalem. According to the Knesset most of the Ethiopian Jewish community has made Aliyah to Israel and gather at the Wailing Wall and visit the promenade in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of “Armon Hanatziv” with colorful umbrellas to show the Qes or high priest is coming.
According to Naftali Aklum, an Ethiopian Jew and advocate, Ethiopian Jews dress in white during Sigd, but it is not a happy holiday in Ethiopia because many people fasted and walked to the top of the highest mountain to be closer to G-d. There they would face the direction of Jerusalem. For many Ethiopian Jews Sigd is still a fast day with readings from the Book of Psalms, Nehemiah, and Songs of Songs with services in the ancient language of Ge’ez. Aklum also says Ethiopian Jews practice Judaism the way it was practiced during the First Temple and did not go by the oral law, that came years later. Ethiopian Jews view their relationship with Judaism as more “one on one” and now that many Ethiopian Jews live in Israel the younger generation is more secular, but there is a new movement of Ethiopian Haredim.
Aklum also says Ethiopians want Sigd to belong to everyone. Sigd is celebrated in Israel, Ethiopia, and about 300 Ethiopian Jews in New York City also celebrate the holiday.
Sigd was made an official holiday in Israel in 2008 with public officials attending the Sigd ceremony in Israel every year. To learn more go to Jewish Virtual Library.org