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Photo Essay & Podcast: Thousands Celebrate Holiday of Sigd

Rabbi Yosef Hadane, the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community speaks about the holiday of Sigd after the ceremony in Jerusalem.
By Ben Bresky
First Publish: 11/20/2012, 7:25 AM

Chief Rabbi Yosef Hadane
Chief Rabbi Yosef Hadane
Ben Bresky

The Jewish holiday of Sigd was celebrated last week on Wednesday, the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur. Thousands attended the central ceremony at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem.

The Chief Kess Raphael Hadane helped lead prayer services as did his son, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community and many other religious leaders. Both spoke to Arutz Sheva about the holiday.

For the full interview click here.

Member of Knesset Shlomo Molla spoke as well as Minister of Immigration Sofa Landver. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu released an official greeting which read in part, "According to ancient tradition, this is holiday is doubly significant: Private and public introspection, and strengthening unity among the community."

The Book of the Prophet Nehemiah, chapter 8 states:

"...the Israelites being settled in their towns -- the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. And they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the L-rd had charged Israel... Ezra the priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men women, and all who could listen with understanding. He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate from the first light until mid-day, to the men, and the women and those who could understand, the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching... Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose. Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people for he was above all the people as he opened it. As he opened it all the people stood up, Ezra blessed the L-rd the great G-d and all the people answered Amen, Amen with hands upraised. Then they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the L-rd with their faces to the ground."

Chapter 9 of Nehemiah describes the following:

"The Israelites assembled, fasting in sackcloth and with earth upon them. Those of the stock of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. Standing in their places, they read from the scroll of the Teaching of the L-rd their G-d for one fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed and prostrated themselves before the L-rd."

After the services, Arutz Sheva interviewed Rabbi Yosef Hadane, the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community.

"Today we came here to celebrate Yom HaSigd, the day of prayer," he stated. "In Ethiopia every year we gathered together and went up on the mountain and prayed for aliyah to Jerusalem and for the safety of the Jewish people in Ethiopian and in Israel. On this day we fast until 3 pm. This is a very interesting and special day for Ethiopian Jews because many people gather together and pray together and say Amen together. It is a symbol of unity and love to one another."

"This is my father," Rabbi Hadane states, introducing a man with a long white beard, white turban and blue robes. "In Ethiopian he was the Chief Kess. He was recognized by the government. Also here in Israel, thank G-d, he is doing a lot for the Jewish community in Ethiopia. He has traveled all over where Jewish people have lived and helped a lot." Chief Kess Hadane gave a blessing in Hebrew and Ge'ez, the language of the Jewish Ethiopian community. The blessing can be heard by downloading the podcast.

Explaining the verses in the Tanach and how it relates to tday, Rabbi Hadane explained, "what Ezra and Nehemiah did when Ezra came back from Babylon to Israel, was to gathered the people. He took the Sefer Torah and he fasted and prayed and asked the people to purify the Jewish families. The main thing is to encourage the Jewish people by their belief in G-d to keep the Torah law. And the Jewish people kept this tradition in Ethiopia every year."

Also in attendance was Dr. Avraham Negusie head of the organization South Wing to Zion. He commented on the fact that Immigration Minister Sofa Lander, who was born in the former Soviet Union, was one of the guest speakers at the ceremony.

"This is the redemption of the Jewish people," he related. "We are coming back and settling in the Land of Israel from north, south, east and west, as it is written. So you see the immigrants from Russia, America, Europe and Ethiopia working together, creating a colorful, attractive society in Israel."

Looking out over the promenade, known colloquially as the "tayelet," he stated, "we are here now looking toward the Western Wall in Jerusalem at the top of the mountain, celebrating with soldiers in uniforms, students, young and old, it is really the fulfillment of the prophesy that the Jewish people from all four corners of the earth will come back and unite."

For more interviews from the central celebration of Sigd, including the blessing from the Chief Kess and a discussion of the secret immigration in the 1980s, music and prayers, download the mp3 by clicking here.



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Photos credits: Ruth Read and Ben Bresky.

Ben Bresky is a music journalist living in Jerusalem. He hosts The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast interviewing a wide range of Jewish and Israeli musicians from Carlebach to klezmer, from hassidic to trance. For mp3 archives click here. For Facebook click here. For Twitter click here.