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Mimouna in all its glory!

04/11/2023 12:32:06 PM

Apr11

When Passover ends, Moroccan Jews don't 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. The Mimouna here at the Spanish last night was no exception. The Spanish in collaboration with the CSUQ have proven that working together does wonders.

During the Mimouna everyone gets dressed again 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 visits. People first go to the clergy’s houses, then 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. 

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, 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.

In our home, to bring in the Mimouna we open our doors to friends and neighbors and share our hospitality and joie de vivre with everyone that enters.   In no time at all, Muriel, assisted by our daughters Eve and Shira and daughter in-law Lea, has prepared a table groaning with delectable food and festooned with colour and symbolism.  It’s 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.
 
This, we learn, is flour 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 symbolic return to chametz. 

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

In the Moroccan tradition, the period of mourning associated with the counting of the Omer is put ‘on hold’ so 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.

Whatever your tradition in celebrating the Mimouna, may it bring you and your loved one’s joy, health, and happiness in the coming year. 

My wife Muriel, our children and grandchildren wish you all a Shabbat Shalom.

Reverend Hazan Daniel Benlolo

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784