Ethiopian Jews hold a Sigd prayer sermon in Jerusalem, November 21, 2014

Ethiopian Jews celebrate Sigd holiday with large gathering in Jerusalem

Community commemorates its commitment to preserving the Torah and its Jewish identity throughout hundreds of years of exile in Africa, renewing the covenant between God and the people of Israel

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Published: 11.04.21, 18:06
Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community celebrated the holiday of Sigd on Wednesday and Thursday, commemorating their commitment to preserving the Torah and their Jewish identity throughout hundreds of years of exile in Africa.
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  • Over many generations, the community did not even own a Torah scroll of and its Jewish traditions were largely shaped by the account of the Biblical book of Nehemiah. Throughout the middle ages, the community fended off recurring attempts to force Christianity onto it and managed to maintain its Jewish identity. Sigd is, in part, a celebration of this.
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    Ethiopian Jews hold a Sigd prayer sermon in Jerusalem, November 21, 2014
    Ethiopian Jews hold a Sigd prayer sermon in Jerusalem, November 21, 2014
    Ethiopian Jews hold a Sigd prayer sermon in Jerusalem, November 21, 2014
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The word itself is from the Aramaic word “sged” which means to prostrate oneself, as in prayer. It was once celebrated on the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, during the week-long holiday of Hanukkah, which usually falls out in December. But at one point in the recent past, its observance was moved forward and is held 50 days after Yom Kippur.
    Sigd celebrates the acceptance of the Torah. One of the holiday’s traditions is for people to retreat into the wilderness to appeal to God for His mercy.
    In July 2008, the Knesset officially added the Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays.
    This year, countless Ethiopian Israelis gathered in an area in Jerusalem that provides a direct view of the Temple Mount: the promenade outside of the neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv and adjacent to Talpiot. This promenade sits on a hilltop above a small valley that separates it from the Temple Mount.
    2 צפייה בגלריה
    Ethiopian Jewish priests, known as Qes, read from the Torah during a Sigd prayer sermon, November 21, 2014
    Ethiopian Jewish priests, known as Qes, read from the Torah during a Sigd prayer sermon, November 21, 2014
    Ethiopian Jewish priests, known as Qes, read from the Torah during a Sigd prayer sermon, November 21, 2014
    (Photo: EPA)
    An Ethiopian Jewish religious leader is known as a Kahen, from the Hebrew word Cohen, which means priest. A married Kahen is known as a Qes. Qes Samay, who was one of several spiritual leaders in attendance at the ceremony, explained that “this is a day of prayers, a day of reading from the Torah. This way, we preserve and continue our traditions from Ethiopia.”
    “Today is a day of soul searching,” he added. “A day of renewing the covenant between God and the people of Israel. This tradition began here in Israel, was continued in Ethiopia, and bless God has been returned to be observed here in Israel.”
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