Malida is served as part of a ceremony whose name is the same as its main dish, which indicates giving thanks for special and auspicious events and includes a family gathering, blessings and songs – and of course lots of food.
The history of the Malida ceremony is legendary and full of color, befitting its native India: according to the legend, the people of the “Children of Israel” were exiled from the land and carried by ship to the shores of India, where the ship sank (exactly on Tu B’Shvat!). There were few survivors and their low spirits were raised by none other than the prophet Elijah, who came down from the sky in a chariot of fire, and ordered them to preserve the tradition of Israel even in exile. The first Malida ceremony actually took place then, and there was a substitute for a sacrificial offering – a plant based one (it was India after all) that was brought to the Temple. To this day, the star of the ceremony is Elijah, and many songs sung in the seder are dedicated to thanking him.
Similar to the sacrificial offering, Malida is made from semolina which is soaked in water and flavored with sugar and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon – although in the Bnei Yisrael community it is sometimes prepared from ground rice (poha). The mixture is piled in the shape of a mountain (reminiscent of Mount Sinai) on a round tray (tala) and decorated with flowers, nuts and fragrant leaves. The mound is surrounded by five types of fruit, and a frankincense resin candle or incense is placed beside it, in memory of the incense that was burned in the temple.