Mehlella (Ge'ez: ምህልላ, lit. 'Supplication'), also Amata Saww (ዐመተ ሰወ, 'Grouping Day') or Sigd (ሰግድ, 'Prostration', Hebrew: סיגד‎, also romanized Sig'd[1]), is one of the unique holidays of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community, and is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. Since 2008, it has been recognised as a state holiday for all Israelis.

Official nameMehlella
Also calledAmata Saww
Observed byIsrael
Date29th day of Cheshvan
2019 dateSunset, 26 November –
nightfall, 27 November
2020 dateSunset, 15 November –
nightfall, 16 November
2021 dateSunset, 3 November –
nightfall, 4 November
2022 dateSunset, 22 November –
nightfall, 23 November


Previously, Sigd was celebrated on the 29th of Kislev, and after a calendar reform in mid-19 century it was moved to its present day, 50 days after Yom Kippur.[2]


The word Sigd itself is Ge'ez for "prostration" and is related to Aramaic: סְגֵדsgēd "to prostrate oneself (in worship)".[3][4] The Semitic root √sgd is the same as in mesgid, one of the two Beta Israel Ge'ez terms for "synagogue" (etymologically related to Arabic: مَسْجِدmasjid "mosque", literally "place of prostration", and the word for mosque in Hebrew: מסגד misgad).


Originally Sigd was another name for Yom Kippur[5] and after the reform that reunited them, the holiday was called by its present name.[dubious ]

There are two oral traditions about the origin of Sigd. One tradition traces it to the 6th century, in the time of King Gebre Mesqel of Axum, son of King Kaleb, when the war between Jews and Christians ended and both communities separated from each other.[6] The second tradition traces it to the 15th century as a result of persecution by Christian emperors. The first mention[dubious ] of Sigd is from the 15th century.[7]

Sigd symbolizes the acceptance of the Torah. The kahənat have also maintained a tradition of the holiday arising as a result of persecution by Christian kings, during which the kahənat retreated into the wilderness to appeal to God for His mercy. Additionally they sought to unify the Beta Israel and prevent them from abandoning the Haymanot (laws and traditions) under persecution. So they looked toward the Book of Nehemiah and were inspired by Ezra's presenting the "book of the law of Moses" before the assembly of Israel after it had been lost to them during the Babylonian exile.[8]


Traditionally in commemoration of the appeals made by the Kessim and consequent mass gathering, the Beta Israel would make pilgrimages to Midraro, Hoharoa, or Wusta Tsegai (possibly marking locations of relief from Christian persecution) every year to reaffirm themselves as a religious community.[9]

Today, during the celebration, members of the community fast, recite Psalms, and gather in Jerusalem where Kessim read from the Orit (the Octateuch). The ritual is followed by the breaking of the fast, dancing, and general revelry.

Official national holiday in IsraelEdit

In February 2008 MK Uri Ariel submitted legislation to the Knesset in order to establish Sigd as an Israeli national holiday,[10] and in July 2008 the Knesset "decided to officially add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays."[11] According to an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, however, “While the qessotch [Kessim] and Beta Israel rabbis are pleased that the Sigd became an official Israeli state holiday in 2008, they would also like the holiday to become an integral part of the yearly Jewish holiday cycle and be embraced by more Jews, at least in Israel, rather than remain a holiday primarily celebrated by the Jewish community from Ethiopia.”[12]


  1. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine,December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  2. ^ The reform was made by the monk Aba Wudja see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 156
  3. ^ Shai Afsai, "Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival," Ami Magazine,December 5, 2012, p. 80.
  4. ^ "Strong's Hebrew: 5456. סָגַד (sagad) -- to prostrate oneself (in worship)".
  5. ^ Aaron Ze'ev Aešcoly, "law and custom among the Jews of Abyssinia (Falasha) in the light of the rabbinic and Karaite Halakha", p. 132 (Hebrew)
  6. ^ Ben-Dor, The Sigd of Beta Israel, p. 141; on the separation see Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 23 and Kaplan, The Beta Israel, p. 39
  7. ^ Ben-Dor, p. 141
  8. ^ Afsai, Shai (November 12, 2014). "What is Sigd?". The Times of Israel.
  9. ^ Ashkenazi, Michael, and Alex Weingrod. Ethiopian Jews and Israel. Transaction Publishers, 1987.
  10. ^ Israel National News Ethiopian Jewish Sigd Festival to Become National Holiday. February 1, 2008
  11. ^ Yedioth Ahronoth Ethiopian Sigd Made Official State Holiday. July 2, 2008
  12. ^ Shai Afsai, “Is world Jewry ready for another holiday?” Jerusalem Post, Nov 9, 2014. Afsai’s "The Sigd: From Ethiopia to Israel," from which this piece is drawn, appears in the Fall 2014 issue of CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly.

Further readingEdit

  • Wolf Leslau, Falasha Anthology, Yale University Press, 1951
  • Kay Kaufman Shelemay, "Seged, a Falasha Pilgrimage Festival", Musica Judaica, Vol. lII, 1, pp. 42–62.
  • Jon G. Abbink,"Segd Celebration in Ethiopia and Israel: Continuity and Change of a Falasha Religious Holiday", Anthropos, Vol. 78, 1983, pp. 789–810
  • Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Music, Ritual, and Falasha History, Michigan State University Press, 1986, ISBN 978-0-87013-274-2
  • Shoshana Ben-Dor, "The Sigd of Beta Israel: Testimony To A Community In Transition" in Michael Ashkenazi and Alex Weingrod (Editors), Ethiopian Jews and Israel, Transaction Publishers, 1987, ISBN 978-0-88738-133-1, p. 140 - 159
  • James Arthur Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews: A History of the Beta Israel (Falasha) to 1920, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8122-3116-8
  • Shai Afsai, “Past in the Present: An inside look at Sigd — the holiday of Ethiopian Jewry — and the struggle to secure its survival,” AMI Magazine, December 5, 2012, pp. 78–85; Afsai, “The Sigd: From Ethiopia to Israel,” CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Fall 2014.

External linksEdit