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A Recipe for Sigd, an Ancient Holiday of Yearning

Sigd is an ancient holiday observed by Ethiopian Jews, commemorating the desire to return to Jerusalem that was originally expressed by the prophets, Ezra and Nehemiah, while exiled in Babylon. Upon the modern-day return of Jews to Israel and the ancient city, many Ethiopian Jews questioned whether there was a need to continue celebrating Sigd if we already fulfilled the prophecy of returning to Israel. But we came to the decision that the observation of Sigd remains relevant because the Third Temple has never been restored. Until it has been built, Ethiopian Jews will continue to recognize and observe the traditions of this special day. 

Sigd always falls on the month of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur; this year, it begins on the evening of November 3rd. It is a day of fasting, praying—and then feasting. Back in Ethiopia, people will go to the highest mountain dressed up in their best traditional clothing. The qess, an Ethiopian rabbi, will lead the prayers in Geez, the ancient Ethiopian language. Together with the community, he will spend the day asking for forgiveness and redemption to return to Jerusalem after being in exile for thousands of years. 

After the prayers…comes the feasting and rejoicing with music and delicious food.

The celebration begins with the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, with the delicious aroma filling the synagogue. Each household in the community will participate by making injera, the flatbread eaten with all meals, as well as cooking lamb stew and doro wot, a chicken stew.  To wash it all down, bottles of homemade Tej honey wine are served with dabo, a thick wheat bread, and honey.

It is a holiday celebrating Jewish unity and diversity. Sigd is so meaningful to me that I decided to write a children’s book about it. It features a little boy exploring his relationship to Sigd and why it’s so important to celebrate. 

Here’s my recipe for dabo. You could make it for Shabbat or any special holiday.

Melkam Sigd! חג סיגד שמח


Dabo Ethiopian Bread 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack dry yeast
  • 4 cup all-purpose flour 
  •  ¼ cup sugar or honey
  • 2 cup warm water 
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp salt 

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Put aside and let it sit for 30 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, and salt).

3. Add yeast, oil, and egg to dry ingredients and mix.

4. Add water gradually to the mixture. Begin to knead the dough until it becomes soft and elastic.

5. Apply oil to your hands and make a sphere out of your dough.

6.  Place dough into a large bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for one hour.  

7. Still in the bowl, continue to knead the dough to get rid of any excess air.

8. Transfer dough onto baking pan.

9. Let dough sit and rise for 20 minutes covered.

10.  Heat oven to 250° F and let bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. 

11.        Let Dabo cool down and enjoy!


Beejhy Barhany is an entrepreneur, and activist, who was born in Ethiopia, raised in Israel, and currently resides in New York. She is the founder of BINA Cultural Foundation non-profit dedicated to celebrating and advocating for Ethiopian Jews in North America. Today, she is the chef and owner of an eclectic Ethiopian restaurant, Tsion Café, that incorporates cuisine from the many places that have been influential on her journeys. Currently, she’s working on a cookbook as well looking to publish a children’s book

Illustration by Hirut Yosef.