by Talia Goldberg, Community Shlicha
The night that Passover ends, everyone walks around their neighborhood in Israel and listens to music playing from almost every home. Each home sounds like they are having a huge party. You can see people are chatting, dancing, and singing. If you haven’t been to Israel for Passover you would probably ask yourself, wait a minute, what holiday did I miss?
So here I present you the Mimouna!
The Moroccan Jews in Israel are known for celebrating Mimouna. Mimouna is the exuberant festival held on the evening and day after Passover, and whose origins are unclear. According to one explanation, it is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Maimon ben Joseph, the father of the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known by his acronym Rambam.) Rambam was a scholar in his own right who lived in Fez (Morocco) and wrote about Jewish-Islamic relations.
Still others connect Mimouna with the word emunah (“belief”), claiming it celebrates belief in Israel’s redemption. Along the same lines, there is also support (said to be traced to Maimonides’ explanation) for the word being an Arabic adaptation of the phrase “ani ma’amin” (I believe), a classic expression of faith for the coming of the Messiah. Ana for ani, placed after the verb ma’amin, as is common in Arabic, yielding ma’amin ana, which became maimouna in the local Judeo dialect. It may have been a greeting exchanged to bolster one another’s disappointment that Passover had come and gone without the long-anticipated return to Jerusalem. (I learned this part from the website My Jewish Learning.)
Israel is a land of immigrants, so many people from so many places arrived, married each other, and had multicultural kids. Mimouna is now celebrated in almost every Israeli home.
Even in my Ashkenazi (families descended from Germany and eastern Europe) home, we make the traditional Mimouna dish called Mufleta, which looks like a pancake and is served with honey and butter.
I hope you get the opportunity to celebrate this beautiful holiday. If it seems too overwhelming, you can order my Taste of Israel box but the deadline is April 3rd!