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Mimouna

04/06/2021 09:56:13 AM

Apr6

Hazan Daniel Benlolo

When Passover ends, Moroccan Jews do not quietly unpack their chametz.  Instead, they celebrate the Mimouna.   This joyous festival is believed to have originated in Fez, Morocco, although it is unclear exactly when. The festivities begin at nightfall with the conclusion of Passover.

Everyone again gets dressed in their holiday finest. Tables are set with white tablecloths bedecked with flowers, green stalks of wheat, pitchers of milk and wine, eggs, dates, honey, assorted fruits, vegetables, and sweets.  The Jews of Marrakesh, Morocco, have another special custom. They prepare some of the dishes with wine saved from Elijah's Cup, as well as any wine left over from the Four Cups.  In many parts of Morocco, there is a custom not to eat dairy products during Passover. In contrast, the Mimouna features dairy products, a special post-Passover treat.

The night's activity consists of visiting home after home, singing songs, exchanging greetings and blessings, and sampling a token food at each house. At each stop the head of the household blesses the guests. There is also significance to the order of the visitations. People first go to their parents' homes and then to other homes of significance.

This is also the time for young people to initiate courtships. Already engaged bridegrooms send precious ornaments to their future brides and dine with their future in-laws.

The origins of this celebration are not clear, but there are many suggestions. Some link it to the Hebrew/Arabic word mammon, which means "wealth and money." It was believed that one's prosperity would be determined on that day.

There are some who believe that the source of the name is Maimon, the father of the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon – better known as Maimonides), and that the day of the Mimouna marks the date of his birth.  Or could it be his death?  Who knows?

Others link it to the Hebrew word emunah meaning faith. Since the Children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt in the month of Nisan, tradition has it that so too our future redemption will occur in Nisan. Because most of the month is over by the end of Passover, this "holiday of faith" is designed to demonstrate that we have not lost faith and still believe that the Messiah can yet come this year.

Whatever the origins, I believe that, as Passover marks the event when Jews stayed in their homes waiting for the angel of death to pass over their houses, so, now that Passover is safely over, we make a point of going from one house to the other, greeting each other joyfully”.

At our home, we throw our door open to friends and neighbours and share our unrivalled hospitality and joie de vivre.   In no time at all, Muriel, assisted by our daughters Eve and Shira, have prepared a table groaning with delectable food and festooned with colour and symbolism.  It is a magical transformation.

Among the many food items, two are of note.   Our attention is drawn to a strange looking white substance in a large glass bowl decorated with bean pods.  Of course!  Have we forgotten so quickly what flour looks like?  Everyone takes a small quantity and quaffs it down with a sip of milk.  To me, this is a powerful symbolical return to chametz

The other unforgettable dish is Mufleta – a crepe like pancake, smothered with jam or with butter and honey and rolled up like a cigar. 

The Mimouna involves much jollity including Moroccan music, energetic dancing and ululating from the women.

In Israel, the Mimouna has become a popular annual happening featuring outdoor parties and picnics, proving that this festival – so rich in symbolism and joy – has a universal appeal.

No matter how we celebrated the Mimouna this year, may this year be filled with joy, health and happiness.

Hazan Daniel Benlolo

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782