Bsisa Ceremony to Mark New Beginnings. Illustration: Nadav Yahel
Bsisa Ceremony to Mark New Beginnings. Illustration: Nadav Yahel
Magazine

Bsisa

The porridge used for blessing by the Jews of Libya, Algiers, and Tunisia

On the eve of Rosh Hodesh Nisan, between Purim and Passover, the Jews of Libya and Tunisia, as well as Jews from certain parts of Algeria, hold the Bsisa ceremony: a ceremony to mark the foundation of the Temple, the construction of which began in the month of Nisan. On this evening the family gathers at the family home. The woman of the house prepares a mixture of roasted wheat and barley (or roasted chickpeas or roasted flour), spices, almonds and dried fruits. The head of the family takes a key in his right hand, and in his left hand he pours oil into the mixture, stirs it with the key and blesses:

“Ya Patah bla mafteach (the opener, without a key)

Ya Attai bla mana (open your hands without any reward)

Tarzakna and Tarzak Manna (Show us your goodness and we will give of it to all)”

In some homes the women of the family remove their gold jewelry and place it inside the bowl to symbolize the gold given to the construction of the Temple. Some even place their wedding rings in the mixture to bless their unions. During the prayer and the pouring of the oil, family members dip their fingers in the bowl, to bless, and taste.

After the Bsisa ceremony, families would enjoy a large and filling platter of couscous marking the last chametz meal before Passover begins.

Some hold the bsisa ceremony – which, just as it sounds, is derived from the word “base” – even when building a new house or business, and spread or mix a little of the mixture into the foundations.

For a story about a particularly exciting bsisa ceremony (and even a recipe) check out the story

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