• Minor Holidays



Rosh Ha-sha-NAH

“Worship” / “Prostration” / “Supplication”

What is Sigd

Celebrated by the Ethiopian Jewish community, Sigd marks the 50th day after Yom Kippur and marks the renewal of the covenant between the Jewish people, God and the Torah, beginning with a fast and ending with celebration.

The festival takes place on the 29th of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur (10th of Tishrei). According to the Ethiopian tradition, ultimate divine forgiveness requires more than individual repentance on Yom Kippur. Consequently, a period of 50 Days, similar to the time period between Pesach and Shavuot, is required for the community to come together for communal introspection and atonement. The culmination of the 50 days is the festival of Sigd.

Rabbi Dr. Sharon (Zewde) Shalom, a Rabbi of the Ethiopian community in Israel, suggested 5 underlying reasons behind the institution and perpetuation of the festival.

  1. Commemoration of Matan Torah (God’s revelation of the Torah), and strengthening the community’s commitment to its study and practice.
  2. Renewal of the covenant with God, in a similar fashion to the renewal experienced in the days of Ezra (Nehemiah 8 – 10).
  3. Encouraging the community to preserve their Jewish identity, and to remain steadfast in their observance of the Mitzvot (commandments), notwithstanding the difficulties involved, and despite their traditional isolation from other Jewish communities.
  4. A day of fasting, repentance, and supplication to God, for heavenly salvation.
  5. Promoting unity and connection among members of the community.

When is Sigd

Cheshvan 29

Celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur



Alternate Names for Sigd

  • Sigd (סיגד) – The word Sigd originates in Ge’ez, an ancient Ethiopian Semitic language, and literally means prostration. The word is still extant in Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia today. It is connected to the Aramaic root S.G.D (סגד), which also means to prostrate oneself in worship. S.G.D is also the source of certain words referring to houses of worship.
  • Mehlella (מהללה) – “Supplication”
  • Amata Saww (עמתה סו) – “Day of gathering”

Customs of Sigd

The celebration of Sigd today has evolved from how it was originally observed in Ethiopia. In its original form, the festival was a more solemn and austere occasion. It was also a way to express the longing for a return to Zion, and was only celebrated by the Ethiopian community. Nowadays, however, Sigd is a much more joyous and festive occasion. It is not exclusively celebrated by the Ethiopian community, but also the public at large, and given that most of the community now lives in Israel, it has become a way of expressing gratitude for the fulfillment of the original dream.

In Ethiopia

Many of the customs and traditions that were practiced in Ethiopia, are no longer in practice today. Here is a sampling of some of the original traditions:

  • Special holiday garments were purified and prepared the day before Sigd.
  • A mountain deemed pure and clean was designated as the location where the ceremony would take place.
  • At the summit of the mountain a circle of stones was erected and a table was prepared for reading the Book of Orit.
    • The Book of Orit, contains the first 8 books of the Bible, arranged by chronology. As such, it includes: The Torah (Pentateuch), Yehoshua (Joshua), Shoftim (Judges), and Rut (Ruth). Its distinctive compilation is unique in Judaism to the Ethiopian community.
  • Special prayers were held in the Masgid (synagogue) on the eve of Sigd.
  • The community members would perform a ritual dipping in the river on the morning of Sigd. There was also the widespread observance of a communal fast day.
  • The community would again gather in the Masgid (synagogue) on the day of Sigd. Following prayers, they would march towards the chosen mountain, led by the priests and the Shamgaloch, who would carry the Book of Orit. The climb up the mountain would often include ascending with stones or holy books on their heads.
  • At the top of the mountain, the high priest would read excerpts from the Orit and the Mäṣḥafä Kedus (Holy Scriptures).
    • The Mäṣḥafä Kedus (Holy Scriptures), is the name for the Jewish Ethiopian Bible. It contains a variant of the books of the regular Bible, arranged by chronology. It also contains many apocryphal works. (It should be noted that the Beta Israel community does not have the classical Rabbinic Texts, common to all other streams of Judaism, as a part of their tradition.)
  • When the high priest would raise his hands towards the heavens, the crowd would repeat the appropriate phrases. After the public recitation, there would be a mass confession of sins, including kneeling and bowing down.
  • At the conclusion of the ceremony, trumpets would be blown and they would express their desire to celebrate next year in Jerusalem.
  • They would then descend from the mountain and march back to the village while singing and dancing. A festive meal would be held, and celebrations would continue for a few days afterward.

Since the early 1980s, Sigd has been celebrated annually in Israel. In 2008, the Knesset approved the Sigd Law, officially recognizing Sigd as a religious holiday. The festivities are held near the Armon Hanetziv Promendade, which looks out over the Old City of Jerusalem and the site of the Temple Mount. Community members come from all over Israel, and the world, to celebrate.

Here are some notable highlights of the festival celebrations today. The leaders of the community (קס או קסים בעברית) adorn themselves with traditional dress, including white robes and white turbans. They stand in front of the community holding Torah scrolls and colorful umbrellas. With their arms outstretched, they recite a series of musical and melodious prayers for around 2 hours. The event is a joyful occasion, as people mingle and chat with friends and family members.

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