Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moroccan Mimouna - Making Passover Last A Bit Longer, But Without the Matzah

Unless your family comes from Morocco, Tunisia, or Algeria, you probably spent the hours after Passover ended last night putting away the Pesach dishes and getting the house back to its normal state.  But if you have family or friends with a North African  background, you may have been lucky to spend a few hours celebrating the Mimouna, also spelled Mimunah.

The Mimouna was celebrated in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood Monday night, the end of Passover in Israel, with President Shimon Peres, Israel's Chief Rabbi, Knesset Members and other dignitaries in attendance.

As Gavriel Queenann and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu write in Arutz, 
Mimouna is a celebration originating among "Maghrebim" [North African Jews] held the day after Passover. Historically it marks the start of spring and the permissibility of eating leavened products after their prohibition during the holiday. It is also popularly treated as a celebration of the Rambam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the great medieval Torah luminary, for whom many say the festival is named.
After settling in Israel, Jewish immigrants from North Africa celebrated Mimouna with their families in their communities. In 1966, however, it was adopted as a national holiday, and has since been adopted by other ethnic groups. Mimouna is often celebrated with outdoor parties, picnics, and BBQs.
Traditionally, the celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of post Passover holiday cakes and sweetmeats.
It is customary for the feasting table to be laid with attention to the number "5," such as 5 pieces of gold jewelry or 5 beans arranged on a leaf of pastry.
Mimouna demonstrates the Jewish people's  faith in the coming of the Redemption, one of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Jewish belief.  As Nissan is the month of redemption from Egypt and is said by the Talmud  to be the month in which the future redemption will occur, If the Messiah has not arrived by the festival's end, the celebration emphasises unswerving faith that he will arrive one day, that we are living in a period of emerging redemption. This is in accordance with the Rambam's 12th principle: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. And though he may be delayed, I will await his coming every day."
Mimouna also demonstrates the unity of Israel due to the custom of many not to eat in the homes of their neighbors on Passover because of personal stringencies pertaining to kashrut on the holiday. Thus, Jews go to one another's homes to celebrate and partake of food at the end of Passover to show that the nation's hearts are united.
Finally, Mimouna expresses our hope the abundance of Passover will continue through the year.
To get an idea of how Mimouna is celebrated in private homes, check out this video from Shalom Sesame.  Enjoy!

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