The Link between Passover and the Customs of the Mimouna
The Israelites left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan. They were sent away when the Egyptians discovered their first born sons had died. However, they immediately regretted what they had done and set off in pursuit.
By the time the Egyptians reached the Red Sea, it was already the seventh night of Passover, which is the last day of the holiday. When the Israelites saw that the Egyptians were in pursuit, they thought that their leaving Egypt had been in vain since the Egyptians would now take them back into slavery. Only when they saw the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea did they believe in God and his messenger Moses.
And so it states in the Midrash: “…and there were gems floating in the sea which were washed up on the shore. And the Israelites went down to collect them.” (Tanhumah, Beshalach)
Only after the Israelites had seen what was washed up on shore and believed in God, did they understand that all that Moses had done had been at the command of God.
If we look at the customs of the Mimouna, we see that most of them are connected to the splitting of the Red Sea and the plunder.
a. The Mimouna is celebrated right after the last day of Passover when the Red Sea was split.
b. People greet each other with “Be prosperous and lucky” since all the Israelites took part in the plunder.
c. It is a day for going to the beach where the miracle occurred.
d. Expensive clothes are worn and tables are decorated with silver and gold coins in remembrance of the plunder at the Red Sea.
e. Fish are put on the table (some people use live fish) in remembrance of the splitting of the Red Sea.
There are more customs of the Mimouna. What are they and how are they linked to Passover and the splitting of the Red Sea.
How was the Mimouna celebrated in Morocco?
The Nature of the Mimouna
In North Africa, where there are eight days of Passover, Jews began celebrating the Mimouna after Mincha services on that last day.
The Jews would go out to the vineyards and orchards in order to see the trees in bloom and to recite the Blessing of the Trees.
(Find it in the Siddur)
Important: Why did the Jews go out to the vineyards and orchards?
After returning to their homes, the Jews, as was customary, took a basket full of Passover delicacies to a Moslem acquaintance. The basket contained an egg and meat pie (a Jewish delicacy), matzah and salads.
The good relations between Jews and Moslems continued for many generations. The Moslem host received the Jew according to the traditional Eastern ceremony of hospitality. He would serve the Jew delicacies, especially fruit. The Moslem would also give the Jew a basket which would contain primarily milk, leben, butter, flour and yeast. It was not possible to obtain yeast at the end of Passover and the Jews of course did not have any at home.
The gift of the yeast made it possible for the Jews to prepare dough for bread right after Passover.
Ask members of your family about other examples of the relations between Jews and Moslems in North African countries.
The Mimouna as the Festival of Bread
Mufleta – crepes, coated with honey and butter.
The Mimouna festivities basically began with the ceremony of kneading the dough. All the members of the family were present for the ceremony. Its importance derived from the fact that the Jews had not eaten bread for over a week.
The matzah that was prepared at home was sometimes difficult to eat, especially for babies and the elderly. Thus, there was a great deal of anticipation for the new bread. This bread was eaten at a special meal and had a special taste, especially because it was the first bread to be eaten after all those days of matzah.
Essentially, the Mimouna was a bridge between the glory and splendor of Passover and the rest of the year.
Write about the special experience of the family at the dough kneading ceremony.
Ask your parents about the ceremony as they experienced it in their home in North Africa.
"Be Prosperous and Lucky"
While the honored housewife was kneading the dough, the most valuable coins of the family would be brought out. When the men had finished singing their hymns, the woman would take the coins in her hand and declare:
This coin if for … (one of the daughters of the family). During the coming year she will, God willing, meet her groom.
This coin is for the young couple … During the coming year may a son be born to them.
The coins would then be placed within the dough. The next day, before baking the bread, the coins would be removed and everyone would wish , the traditional blessing of the festival.
– be successful, be prosperous.
– have good luck.
- Why were coins used to bless family members and why were the coins placed within the dough?
The Mimouna was celebrated among the family and the bigger the family, the happier the celebration.
Opening of the Mimouna in the Synagogue
Following the evening services at the end of Passover, Moroccan Jews had the custom of reading certain verses in honor of the Mimouna festival. The verses were from the book of Proverbs and captured the spirit of the holiday.
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding (Proverbs 3:4-5)
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. (1:1)
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it (10:22)
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour. (21:21)
Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his
master shall be honoured. (27:18)
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. (18:10)
For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. (9:11)
Blessed be God forever, amen and amen (Psalm 89)
Look at these verses and write how the Mimouna festivities express what is being said:
Following the recital of these verses, they would read the first mishna of each chapter of the Sayings of the Fathers. Following are the verses:
Chapter 1: Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets to the members of the Great Knesset.
Write the continuation of the mishna in your own words:
Chapter 2: Rabbi Judah the Prince said: Which is the proper course that a man should choose for himself? That which is an honor to him and elicits honor from his fellow men.
Write the continuation of the mishna in your own words:
Chapter 3: Akavya ben Mahalalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin.
Chapter 4: Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all men.
Chapter 5: By ten divine sayings the world was created.
Chapter 6: Rabbi Meir: All who learn Torah for its own sake merit many things.
The Traditional Table on Mimouna Eve: “Be Prosperous and Lucky”
On Mimouna eve, it is the custom to leave one’s door open. All guests are welcome without an invitation. The number of hosts and their guests in Israel is in the hundreds of thousands.
Family members welcome the guests and guide them to the prepared table according to tradition. It is customary to lay the table with a tablecloth from the family heirloom and to cover it with a transparent white tablecloth.
The woman of the house, dressed in traditional festive garb, serves the guests tea with mint along with muphlaita dipped in honey and butter.
Symbols of Plenty Decorating the Mimouna Table
On Mimouna eve, the table is decorated with the following items. Explain the significance of each:
1) Live fish – placed on a plate with a bed of lettuce and vegetables.
2) A plate of flour – decorated with seven green bean pods.
3) A tray of flour – scattered within it are seven gold coins and in its center a full cup of oil.
4) Milk jugs – around them are lettuce and vegetables.
5) Sheaves of grain – scattered on the table.
6) Trays of fruit – oranges, apples, almonds and nuts.
7) Honey and butter wafers.
8) Zaben – white almond nougat.
9) Marozia – fried raisins decorated with nuts.
10) Mazun – jam made from grapefruit, oranges, turnips, carrots and beets.
11) Dates – stuffed with nuts and marzipan.
12) Mufleta – crepes dipped in honey and butter.
What other dishes were customary in your family?