Imbolc and the Megillah Moon
Saturday gratefuls: Dr. Thompson. Kate. Always Kate. The Karma, her wheelchair. Psalm’s class. Kabbalah Experience. Earth. Animacy. Flying through space, yet with friends. Perseverance. Mars. The asteroid belt. Rockets. Satellites. Math.
Sparks of Joy: Odin. Ecstasy. The Moon.
What’s a megillah? A scroll. The third division of the Tanakh, the ketuvim, the Writings, has five books: Lamentations, Esther, Ruth, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes, that are read from scrolls during certain Jewish holidays.
The scroll of Esther is read aloud on the holiday of Purim, which ended yesterday. Purim celebrates the story of Esther. Esther has risen to Queen of Persia through the advice of her guardian, Mordecai. The King, though, does not know she is of the Jewish minority in his kingdom.
Haman, the grand vizier, announces a campaign to rid Persia of Jews. Mordecai encourages Esther to reveal her ethnicity and foil Haman. She does this. Haman and his compatriots pay for their hubris and the Jewish community in Persia survives.
The first Purim I attended at Congregation Beth Evergreen the President of the congregation carried cases of beer and bottles of wine into the sanctuary. What?
Purim shares elements of medieval Christmas revelries, especially its Lord of Misrule. Conventions get upended. Drinking more than usual and during a worship service, for example. Folks dress in costume and often laughter, even derisive laughter accompanies the worship.
The whole megillah means reading the entire scroll out loud. On Purim that means Esther and it is read from a handwritten scroll, though often truncated. Whenever the evil grand vizier’s name, Haman, occurs, the congregation shouts, laughs, cranks on groggers, mechanical noisemakers. It’s fun.
Another part of Purim is the Purim spiel. A member of the congregation writes an entire play, always a musical at Beth Evergreen. In it is a retelling of the Purim story, but also moments that make fun of synagogue leadership. The Lord of Misrule idea.
I’m including a link to this year’s Purim spiel at Congregation Beth Evergreen. My buddy, Alan Rubin, his daughter Francesca, and his wife, Cheri play prominent roles.
The megillah of Esther is the only book in the Tanakh which doesn’t mention God. And, it’s a story of Jewish liberation from persecution. As such, over the centuries it has given hope to Jewish communities, almost always a minority of the nations within which they found themselves.