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Eid Al-Banat

عيد البنات עיד אלבנאת


During the years of exile, Jewish communities around the world would create unique traditions around the cycle of the Hebrew Calendar year. The Festival of the Daughters, Eid al-Banat, is celebrated on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, during Chanukah. Throughout the ages the holiday has served to elevate women’s power, strength, wisdom and sisterhood. The holiday is celebrated among Jewish communities in North Africa, Turkey and Thessaloniki.

Women, young and elderly, would gather for a celebration in which they would study, dance, sing and send gifts to each other.


The Origins of Eid Al-Banat

Rosh Chodesh is considered a special day for Jewish women. In the Torah, there is evidence that women refrained from work on Rosh Chodesh. In addition, many connected the cycles of the moon to the cycle of menstruation. Rosh Chodesh Tevet is the only Rosh Chodesh in the year in which we say full Hallel (a special prayer of praise for holidays). Therefore, this holiday became Chag Habanot / The Festival of the Daughters. The holiday is associated with legendary and midrashic traditions or literary and historical traditions, about bold, wise, courageous and determined women who saved their people with their resourcefulness, wisdom, courageous hearts and heroism, and changed historical circumstances in antiquity.


Queen Esther

One origin of the Festival of the Daughters is on the day when Esther was brought before King Ahasuerus and reigned under Vashti (Esther 2:16). Because she was the queen, Esther was able to save the Jews in the kingdom of Persia. When Haman received permission from King Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews, Esther was asked by Mordecai to approach the king and beg him to save the Jews. Esther showed great courage and risked herself for the sake of her people to overthrow Haman. Because of her wisdom, she was able to convince King Ahasuerus to undo the

evil decree.


Judith

The Book of Judith is one of the Jewish apocrypha (the Jewish apocrypha was written by Jews during the Second Temple period. They were not accepted as scriptures and were preserved in the Septuagint), but related traditions were preserved in Jewish communities in the Middle Ages. Holofernes, Nebuchadnezzar's Assyrian army minister, set out on a journey to Israel to conquer it. He laid siege to the city of Betulia (possibly referring to Beit El), where a rich and beautiful widow named Judith lived. The residents of the city were looking for a way to defeat Holofernes and prevent him from reaching Jerusalem, but were unsuccessful and became desperate. Judith did not despair, and through her wisdom and boldness she found a solution. She conquered the army minister with her beauty, gave him milk to drink (and in other translation: wine), beheaded him and saved all of Judah.


Hannah

(daughter of Matityahu)

When the kingdom of Greece reigned and decreed decrees on the Jewish people, it was decreed that every Jewish woman would be taken by the bishop on the night of her wedding. When it came time for Hannah daughter of Matityahu to marry Eleazar ben Hashmonai, she refused to accept this evil decree. The brave woman tore her clothes and demanded that her brothers not stand idly by. At first the brothers wanted to get up and kill her, but she managed to calm them down and persuade them to take bold action that would save her and all the Jewish omen from the hands of the bishop. In unison, Hannah's brothers turned to the king. They demanded that Hannah not be handed over to the bishop but to the king himself because of her lofty status. On the night of her wedding, Hannah came to the king accompanied by her brothers. They snuck into the king's room and killed him. Thus began the Maccabean War in Greece.


The Customs of the Holiday

Women used to make cakes, especially honey cakes, which are characteristic of this day and engage in an evening of study, dance and song. In addition, they would light the monthly Rosh Chodesh candle alongside the Chanukah candles, and send gifts to each other. In Tunisia, they would celebrate a joint Bat Mitzvah for all the girls who reached the age of mitzvah that year. The rabbi delivered a sermon on the merits of righteous women, and then all the women passed in front of the ark and kissed the Torah scrolls, and the rabbi would bless them with a special prayer. In the communities of Morocco and Tunisia it was customary that on the first of Tevet the families of the engaged young men and the families of the future brides would send gifts to each other. In Djerba the holiday is called 'Rosh Chodesh of the Girls' and it was the celebration of the unmarried girls. The party was considered a blessing for successful matchmaking in the year to come.

In Thessaloniki the women would gather and ask forgiveness from each other. It seems that an earlier tradition was to fast and ask forgiveness in ways that some still practice today on the evening of Rosh Chodesh.



Judith, Eid Al-Banat. The Festival of the Daughters,
Judith

Queen Esther, Eid Al-Banat. The Festival of the Daughters
Queen Esther