Hag HaSigd: How a Dream Became a Reality
The Jewish Ethiopian community once had a deep and precious dream: to return to Zion.
For centuries, a community known as Beta Israel lived in Ethiopia, practicing the written traditions of the Jewish Bible, and living as Israelites. Made up of 500 small villages of Ethiopian Jews, these communities pined for Zion, and yearned to go back to Israel, their promised land.
The Beta community was isolated from the rest of today's Jewish communities for a millennium in Ethiopia after the last expulsion for Israel, and was unable to access much of the oral tradition that continued to develop. Because of this, Ethiopian Jews follow a different type of tradition, one that closely resembles more biblical Israelites. But they always held onto the vision of returning home.
This is where Hag HaSigd began, a holiday dedicated in the Beta community to longing for return, and commemorating the receiving of the Torah. Every year, 50 days after Yom Kippur, Ethiopian Jews spend a day praying, fasting, learning Torah, and then ending with food and celebration.
Eventually, their dream came true, and in 1977, the Beta community were officially declared Jews under the Law of Return in Israel, and their mass aliyah began! Since then, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian Jews have made their way back to Israel.
Hag HaSigd falls every year on the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, and it has officially become a national holiday in Israel. This year, Hag HaSigd will fall on November 3rd to 4th. Cool Fact
Sigd means "to prostrate" in Ge'ez, an ancient Ethiopian language reserved just for Jewish liturgy.
When the Ethiopian community was still in Ethiopia all capable members of the community would fast and climb the mountain near Ambober to spend the morning in prayer. After midday, the community would return down the mountain to a holiday meal awaiting them. According to tradition, Hag HaSigd occurs 50 days after Yom Kippur as a day to renew their covenant with God and yearn for Israel and Jerusalem.
After the Ethiopian community came to Israel they continued to celebrate Sigd. But now, it has become much more of a celebration rather than a day of mourning. Instead of yearning for Jerusalem, Sigd celebrates the return of the Ethiopian community to Israel with prayer, singing, and dancing! And today, all Israelis are welcome to join in the celebrations.
Another Cool Fact
The Ethiopian Bible (called Orit) is written in Ge'ez rather than Hebrew.