The Sigd Festival, 29th Heshvan

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The Ethiopian Sigd Festival falls on 29th Cheshvan, and is a festival unique to this community and has now been designated by the Knesset as an official holiday for Beta Yisrael, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel.

Significance: The letters s-g-d are the same as in "Mesgid", one of two Ethiopian Jewish terms for prostration/worship and dedication/Temple, a clear indication of its association with Jerusalem and its centrality in Jewish life and ritual.

The month of Cheshvan is known as "Chadar" and includes other special dates, such as 1 Chadar, when Moses saw G-d's face and 10 Chadar, when he received the Jewish People on his descent from Heaven. Whereas Shavuot, 48 days after Pesach [22 Nisan in their calendar] is celebrated as a harvest festival, the Sigd is their celebration of the Giving of the Law. The Jewish community in Ethiopia would make a special pilgrimage to the nearest highest mountain, for example, near Ambover village, as they could not observe the precept of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and there would be prayers and blessings by the Kesim (priests and learned elders), followed by a festive meal.

In Israel today, thousands of Ethiopian Jews make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem each year, beginning with a  gathering on the Talpiot Promenade which affords a view of Jewish holy sites - the Old City and the Temple Mount. (See pictures of the Sigd Pilgrimage)

Traffic is congested from early morning on the 29th Cheshvan, as we watch large gatherings in their traditional white festive dress, or modern clothing, disembark from coaches, cars, and throng together, greeting each other. When the Kesim arrive, they hold a solemn assembly with special prayers as they gaze upon the Old City of Jerusalem.


1. What are the Jewish Pilgrim Festivals?

2. Do other Diaspora Jews observe the Pilgrim festivals with a special custom? Why/not?

3. How far apart are the 2 closest Pilgrimage festivals? Why? [See our Shavuot files.]

4. Read the Section on Lag BaOmer - what mountain is involved in this celebration?

5. Take a Jewish calendar and count backwards from the Sigd to preceding festivals, making a chart and noting the Torah readings for each week. What falls at the same interval?

An On-Line Video and Activity Pack, Click player.



* There are 50 days between Pesach and Shavuot in the Jewish calendar, from the 1st day of the Omer [not counting 1st day Pesach], when we are commanded to count 7 weeks, which is explained as a time of 7 levels of purification [each of 7 days]; this is also the time it took to grow the first fruits in Eretz Yisrael for offerings, from the Children of Israel's day of entry into the Land of Israel on the 2nd day of Pesach 40 years after leaving Egypt!

* It has also been explained by our Sages that the Festival of Assembly [Atzeret] and harvest should similarly have been 50 days after the beginning of Succot, but that it would have been impractical to observe the mitzvah [precept] of dwelling in Succot [booths] so late in the year, and the harvest needed to be before the rains. [We also pray at the end of Succot, on Shmini Atzeret, for the rains before their due season.]

Since the Ethiopian Jewish community had no Oral Law, they have taken literally the commandment to count 7 weeks - and fixed their pilgrimage festival accordingly: 7 weeks after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and purification!

Further References

Sigd Links Collection [pdf download, English] 






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07 Jun 2005 / 29 Iyar 5765 0