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Sigd, meaning "prostration" in Ge-ez, an ancient Ethiopian Semitic language, is a holiday of the Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jewish community. Other names for the holiday are Mehlella, meaning "supplication," and Amata Saww, meaning "Grouping Day." The Beta Israel were secluded from other Jewish communities until the mid-twentieth century when many came to Israel, and thus had made their own holidays and celebrations that are not part of the larger Jewish community, Sigd being one of them.

According to oral tradition, Sigd either dates to the sixth century, being started after a war between Jews and Christians concluded and the communities separated from each other, or to the fifteenth century, at a time when the Beta Israel were being persecuted by Christian emperors. It became an official state holiday in Israel in 2008. There it is used to educate Israeli Jews about Beta Israel customs and to raise their visibility.

Sigd is observed on the 29th day of Heshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur. It symbolizes the acceptance of the Torah, and the Beta Israel believe it was the day that God revealed himself to Moses, the Torah's writer. Traditionally, the Beta Israel made pilgrimages on the day. Today, common activities are fasting, the reciting of Psalms, praying for the rebuilding of the temple, and the reading of the Octateuch, or Orit: the 5 books of Moses and Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Traveling to Jerusalem is another common part of Sigd, where the Wailing Wall is visited, and scripture and prayers are read by Kessim, the Beta Israel religious leaders. At mid-day, the fast is broken and there is dancing and celebration.

How to Observe Sigd

A few ways you could take part in Sigd include:

  • Read the Orit.
  • Recite Psalms.
  • Fast until the afternoon, and then eat and dance.
  • Visit a synagogue.
  • Plan a trip to Jerusalem.


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