Seder El-Tawhid

From Nahar Misrayim

by Hakham Refael Aharon Ben-Shimeon Alexandria in 1908.

Translation by Joseph E. Mosseri

There is an ancient custom here in Egypt that on the night of Rosh Hodesh Nissan they make in the synagogue with lots of people and great pomp Seder El-Tawhid. It is an order of learning that includes the reading of Qorban Pesah from Perashat Hahodesh Hazeh Lakhem (Exodus 12 1-20) which pertains to Rosh Hodesh Nissan and its sanctity and stature, and a song for the sanctification of the month, and the great praise (Psalms 136), and other songs in honor of the Torah and the status of Yisrael who learn it. After reading all of the above with nice tunes and pleasing voices the Hazan stands up and opens up in a very clear and sweet voice and says Seder Hayihoud (Hebrew translation of El-Tawhid) in literary Arabic which is the story of the greatness of the Creator, His uniqueness, His wonders, and the great acts of kindness He has done with His people. This is done in the most wonderful language which stirs the heart and stumps the imagination with the most powerful and amazing of words and ideas about the awesome and unique Creator.

At the end of the Yihoud, the Hazan says a prayer in Arabic which rends the heart with its compassion and extinguishes torches with its pleasant phrases.The prayer is poured forth to the exalted Creator to take mercy on the flock of His shephard, to take compassion on the remnant of the nation, to return the children to their fathers table, and to return the service to His sanctuary. They have already printed a very small amount of this service and it is to be found in the hands of a few special individuals. This custom is based upon solid gold foundations for a number of reasons: One because of the exodus from Egypt, on Rosh Hodesh Nissan it was declared to them that the redemption will be on the night of the 15 of Nissan which is the night of Pesah and this was in Egypt. In commemoration of this proclamation of the upcoming redemption they do in Egypt a good remembrance on the night of Rosh Hodesh Nissan when the people are all at home to remember the miracles of G-D and His kindness with us. The second reason is because they were redeemed in Nissan and we are to be redeemed again in Nissan, so in order to instill in their hearts faith of the forthcoming redemption that they don't give up hope due to the lengthiness of the bitter exile, they do this order on this night of the proclamation of the exodus. This is to let them know that just like that was proclaimed and then actually happened and we were saved from oppression and slavery in Egypt, so to it will be in the future redemption that we will all witness the return of Yisrael. Even though it has dragged on too long G-D will not let us down and He will finally redeem us.

This custom has found much favor in my eyes, worthy are those who started it, worthy are those who established it, worthy are those who keep it up. But unfortunately this custom is already losing ground because the city has expanded and more people are moving away from the old Jewish Quarter to the more luxurious tracts of land that are being developed where the air is cleaner. But this custom which is only Egyptian can not die out. I have faith in G-D that after people settle in the new neighberhoods they will reinstitute this wonderful custom there and G-D will not withhold those who follow in his ways.

(There is an oral tradition that this custom was established by Rabeinou Abraham ben HaRambam.)