The Whole Megillah

The Whole Megillah

One of the four “things” from Esther 9:20-22 that we are supposed to do when celebrating Purim is to hear a “telling” of the Megillah, the book of Esther. Megillah is a Hebrew word meaning “scroll” and, in Judaism, there are actually five “scrolls” (or Megillot) that are read in synagogues during the year, depending on the traditions of individual Jewish communities.

Those five Megillot are:

  • Song of Songs — read on the Shabbat of Pesach (Passover)
  • Ruth — read on Shavu’ot (Pentecost)
  • Lamentations — read on Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av)
  • Ecclesiastes — read on the Shabbat of Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booth)
  • Esther — read on Purim

In popular usage, however, the term Megillah refers to the reading of the Book of Esther at the Feast of Purim because this is a near universal tradition across all streams of Judaism.

Traditionally, the Megillah is chanted in Hebrew from a special handwritten scroll, with special age-old cantillation, or chant, melodies. At Brit Hadasha, we tell the story in English to be certain even newcomers to Purim understand the narrative.  In most synagogues, the reading of the Megillah is done twice — once in the evening (Erev Purim) and once during the daylight hours of Purim.

During the reading, we all pay close attention and when we hear the name of the villain of our story, Haman, we drown out his name with the noise of “groggers”, other noisemakers, as well as booing and hissing. Children of all ages, even those of advanced age, love that on this one day it is a mitzvah to make a LOT of noise! 

Listening to the “Whole Megillah” reminds us each year of the miraculous salvation of the Jewish nation all those millennia ago that preserved HaShem’s chosen people. Without this miracle, there would have been no chosen people into which Yeshua, our Messiah, could have been born. Baruch HaShem for His deliverance and His faithfulness.