Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Hag HaSigd is one of the most famous and exciting holidays among Ethiopian Jews in Israel. It celebrates their coming home to Israel, and the receiving of the Torah. Before their Aliyah to Israel, the holiday was one of prayer and yearning to return to Zion, but since has become a festive holiday of gratitude and joy!
What is Hag HaSigd all about?
Sigd comes from the root of the word that means "to prostrate," a gesture of laying down flat, associated with atonement. The holiday is then referred to as "Chag HaSigd," the holiday of atonement. It is often compared to Judaism's Yom Kippur, and takes place 50 days after Yom Kippur. The Ethiopian community holds that their time of atonement lasts the whole 50 days!
02 Beta Israel
The Ethiopian Jewish religious community is also known as Beta Israel, and were cut off from the developing oral traditions and development of modern Judaism for a millennium. Beta Israel began celebrating Sigd in Ethiopia, and it was declared a national holiday in Israel in 2008.
On this holiday, Ethiopian Jewish leaders dress in their traditional robes and carry Torah scrolls while holding colorful umbrellas while praying with the community. Sigd marks the covenant of the Torah between the Jews and G-d. The community spends 50 days after Yom Kippur atoning for their sins and on the 50th day, they all pray and fast again like on Yom Kippur.
The holiday is mostly celebrated at the Kotel and on the Tayelet right outside the Old City in Jerusalem. More than 100,000 Ethiopians come to pray and observe the holiday together in the holy city. It is a sight to behold!
Sigd is theorized to have originated either in the 6th century after a war between Jews and Christians, or in the 15th century resulting from religious persecution. Some say the holiday came to be as a result of this persecution from Christian kings, and as a way to unite the people and solidify the traditions.
Hag HaSigd has become a special day across all of Israel, and celebrates Israel's Ethiopian community as well as their traditions!