On Passover, Celebrate Diverse Backgrounds

30Mar10

The festivities begin at the evening service when congregants greet one another with Tarbah (success), recite the special Mimouna blessing (Alallah Mimouna, Ambarka Mas’uda), drink mahya and stop to visit with the rabbi’s family, the hazzan (cantor), their parents, friends and neighbors, in that order. The focal point in every home is the festive table, set on a white tablecloth and adorned with flowers and wheat stalks, and displaying the symbolic foods: milk or buttermilk, flour, eggs, honey, butter, fruits, nuts, yeast cakes, sweets, five dates, five coins, five beans, wine and plain yeast. The table would not be complete without plenty of muffaleta, which is rolled like a crepe with honey in the center and eaten hot with butter. The following morning families head for the beach or other bodies of water. They splash water on their faces and step into the ocean. By doing this, Moroccan families symbolically replay the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

This took place on the last day of Passover and ended in the physical and spiritual freedom of the Israelites. After the symbolic crossing, families gather for outdoor festivities, with pitched tents, music, dancing and laughter. While it is difficult to determine when the practice began, the name Mimouna has fueled speculations as to the holiday’s origins and meaning:

Mimouna comes from the name Maimon. Maimonides’ father lived in Fes where the Mimouna is said to have originated.

It comes from the Hebrew/Aramaic word mammon, which means “riches” or prosperity. The underlying presumption is that an individual’s productivity, the nation’s bounty and personal and national wealth are determined on Mimouna Day.

The word contains the Hebrew word emunah, or faith that the redemption will occur in the month of Nisan, as did freedom from bondage.

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