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Kes Tefeshaku Fkadu

Father's name: Fkadu Iskias
Year of birth: 1926
Place of birth: Asagada, Tigray
Region in Ethiopia: Tigray
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Spiritual leader
The language of the interview: Tigrinya

Kes Tefeshaku Fkadu, agriculture, Ge’ez, spiritual leader,  parables and proverbs, tradition and customs, sabbath, festivals and significant occasions, synagogue, religion, studies, ordination ceremony, red heifer, pure, offering a sacrifice, Emperor Tewodros, wedding, mourning, trade, Christians, Moslems, Book of Priests, prayer, faith, blessing, Bible, religious studies, Italians, Asagada, Tigray, Sudan, Adi Warba, Semien, Shire.

Summary of the testimony:

Kes Fkadu begins with a prayer in Ge’ez and throughout the interview he demonstrates various prayers in Ge’ez. He describes his family tree and the local history. His family lived in Edi Warba for many generations until the Italian conquest forced them to move to Asagada, where he was born.

He tells a parable comparing the immigration of the community to Israel to that of the patriarch Abraham. He then talks about the dynasty of Kesim of the Gwangul family. He describes the syllabus of religious studies he began at the age of eight. At the age of 20, in order to be ordained, he travelled to Semien with all the Kesim. When he returned, a great feast and ceremony were held marking the ordination.  

Kes Fkadu describes the roles of the spiritual leader of the community, such as leading prayers and conducting wedding ceremonies, funerals and customs of mourning. He also explains why and how the Kes is chosen. He talks about the religious traditions that were observed, such as preparing ashes of a red heifer to be used for purification after burial or touching a corpse. He describes the synagogue he and his family built, as well as the preparations for celebrating the various festivals, including the pascal lamb, the fourth sabbath, the new year and others.

He talks about the conferences of the Kesim of the region that would be held in order to determine the precise dates the festivals would fall on. He also explains the hierarchy among the Kesim and how this was expressed in daily life: for example, it was this hierarchy that determined who would perform the ritual slaughter and recite the blessings at events and festivals.

As was traditional, Kes Fkadu received tithes from his community and payments for religious services, but his main income was from agricultural work. He would sell the produce at the market in the city of Shire, where he would sometimes hold conversations with Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders. He relates that, during the period of Emperor Tewodros II, debates were held in the royal palace as to which religion is the true faith. Abba Yitzchak was sent to represent the Jews, and during the debate between the religious leaders a white dove flew above them. The dove eventually sat on Abba Yitzchak for a long time, after which the Emperor declared Judaism to be the true religion and increased the Jews’ rights in the country.

Kes Fkadu recites several prayers, blessings and verses and he explains the traditional manner of study. Finally, he talks about history and reads from the book of priests he owns.

Kes Tefeshaku Fkadu

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