Tag Archives: synagogue

The whole megillah in one sentence

A quiz from when I taught Sunday school. I always thought Vashti got a raw deal in this story.

Did somebody say ‘megillah?’ It means ‘the whole ball of wax’ or ‘the whole nine yards.’ Where did that word come from? Purim is the holiday that celebrates when Esther saved the Persian Jews from being massacred. It’s a long story that’s read in its entirety every Purim—and the Hebrew word for scroll is megillah.

And, because I’m the Sweetheart of Blogdom, I’ll give the whole Book of Esther my patented Western-Lit-in-Only-One-Sentence ® treatment. The set-up: Israel had been under the thumb of the Assyrian Empire, then the Babylonian Empire who marched most of the Jews to parts East. Next, the Persians ran the show and the Jews who lived in the Persian empire kept their heads down to avoid trouble. We’re in Susa, the capital city. Ready? Hang onto your tri-corner hats ‘cause here we go:

Five months into a 6-month drinking party King Ahasuerus hollers for Queen Vashti to make an appearance but Vashti says no thanks bub so the wise men tell King Ahasuerus she has to go or else none of the wives will obey their drunk husbands so Queen Vashti gets the pink slip and Ahasuerus holds a beauty contest to choose a new wife meanwhile the Jew Mordecai tells his beautiful cousin Esther the Miss Persia pageant could be her golden ticket so Esther enters and wins now she’s the queen and lives in the palace Mordecai warns Esther be careful some bad guys want to kill the king so Esther tells the cops and they catch the bad guys later the bigshot Haman is walking around Susa everybody bows to him except Mordecai who only bows to G-d so Haman gets mad and tells King Ahasuerus he wants to kill all the Jews because they won’t bow to him Ahasuerus says okay here’s my ring with the royal seal do whatever you want Mordecai gets wind of this plan and begs Esther to get the king to stop it Esther goes to the king even though he didn’t ask to see her which was a serious crime in those days but she figures if I die I die Ahasuerus doesn’t kill her so she invites Ahasuerus and Haman to dinner Haman builds a really tall gallows to hang Mordecai later that night the king reads the newspaper story about how Mordecai stopped the bad guys who tried to kill him he orders Haman to honor Mordecai with a big parade so Haman doesn’t get to hang him which really grinds Haman’s gears that evening at Esther’s dinner King Ahasuerus asks her what would you like darling anything at all even unto half my kingdom Esther says Haman wants to kill all the Jews I’m a Jew so…Ahasuerus has Haman hanged on the same gallows Haman had built for Mordecai the king gives his ring with the royal seal to Mordecai he sends out executive orders allowing the Jews to defend themselves they destroy their enemies Mordecai takes over the bigshot job Haman had.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/jewish-hamantaschen-cookies-recipe-1136141
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/purim
https://www.israel21c.org/making-some-noise-on-purim/

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Maybe that’s why medias res got moved to the front

A really big scroll

Scrolls have a drawback: you can’t bookmark a page. If you want to read something that’s in the middle of a book, you will have to unroll the whole megillah until you find it.

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/reading-the-megillah/
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/megillah
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a57YrrOVhOk

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Scrolls are still around

Parchment scrolls are still used today for important documents. In a Jewish synagogue, the Torah is written on a scroll. As the rabbi reads from it, he uses a yad to point to the words so his hand doesn’t touch the holy text.

There’s a tiny hand at the end, pointing a finger

You may have noticed me fretting about animal welfare for the last few posts. My pal (and Western Civ User’s Guide Irregular) Ilene told me that Torah scribes—sofers—who write on parchment are trained to be kosher butchers (click here and scroll down to the comments—also here, scroll down). They’re taught to have compassion for G-d’s creatures whose bodies furnish the parchment His Word is written on.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scrolls
https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/torah-scroll/
https://www.worldofjudaica.com/judaica/torah-pointers
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kosher
Warning: this link may be unsettling; it talks about the kosher slaughtering of animals— https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/kosher-slaughtering-an-introduction/

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