25/26 November 2022, 1 Kislev 5783

Pnina Tamano-Shata is the first Ethiopian woman to be a member of the Knesset in Israel, and was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption.

We rabbis joke there are no festivals in Cheshvan the month we are about to finish this coming Friday.

Actually although Torah doesn’t command or instruct there is indeed another festival. Sigd is an Ethiopian Jewish holiday celebrated on the 29th of Cheshvan, exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur.

The Ethiopian Jewish community lived in complete isolation from other Jewish communities for many centuries, until 1980s when when many Ethiopians were air-lifted to Israel. For this reason, the Ethiopian Jewish community, called the Beta Israel, developed many holidays and celebrations that do not exist in other Jewish communities.

The name “Sigd” means “prostration” in Ge’ez, an ancient Ethiopian liturgical language, but it is related to the word sged (same meaning) in Aramaic, one of the languages of the Talmud. It’s meaning is of accepting Torah and yearning for Israel and the Temple. It also holds the idea of the date when God first revealed himself to Moses. 50 days after Yom Kippur gives me pause in my own life. What have I held onto? What commitments that I made have I successfully sustained and – most importantly – how am I walking with God, personally and within our congregation. These 50 days have felt intensely busy for me and I take from Sigd the gift of assessing how much I act rather than react in my life. How Torah and my tradition compells me.

29th Heshvan corresponds to 23 November: yesterday. There are very few members of the Beta Israel community here in the UK. We have invited Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, who has visited Ethiopia several times and has learned a great deal about the community to visit us and teach and give  us more context of the community. This will be our way of understanding Sig and ensuring their Jewish tradition becomes known and honoured by the wider Jewish community. Sybil will speak during the service on Shabbat 10th December. Please Save the Date and in the spirit of Sig check all that is happening in our synagogue, all that connects us to our Jewish life and tradition.

Shabbat Shalom,