The Scroll of Esther – ‘the’ Megillah or Megillat Esther
The Megillah, also known as Megillat Esther or the Scroll of Esther, tells the story of Purim as told in the Bible in the Book of Esther. The copy of the story read in synagogue is written on parchment and must be on a single sheet. It need not be bound, but is usually kept in a wooden binder. It is common for Megillah scrolls to have colourful elaborate designs and decorations on them. There is no risk of mocking God in doing so, because the Megillah is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God’s name.
During Purim the Megillah is read at the end of the Maariv service (evening prayer) and again during Shacharit (Morning Service) the following morning. In religious communities, a special reading of just the Megillah is usually done in the morning for women as it is easier for them to attend synagogue later in the morning rather than early in the morning for the Shacharit (Morning Service) together with the men.
Because Purim is a joyous festival, the Megillah, in line with the rest of the Purim activities, is often performed and sung in an entertaining manner. In an Orthodox synagogue, a traditional tune is maintained throughout the reading and a special voice may be put on for each character when he or she speaks. The verses from Esther 1:7, 3:15 and 7:4 are all sung to the tune for Lamentations. Then the congregation reads verses 2.5 and 8.6 out loud. In some congregations the reading of the Megillah is extremely informal.
Every time Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading, the congregation must block it out, by making noise. A traditional toy used for making a noise to stamp out Haman’s name with is called the raashan or gregger.
One of the few mitzvot (commandments) associated with Purim is that one must hear the entire Megillah. For this reason, the reader must stop every time noise is made and wait for it to subside before continuing with the reading – this enables those present to hear the entire Megillah.
YouTube – Purim 2013 Megilla Reading – Congregation Beth Mordecai (approximately 2 minute introduction, then the reading of the Megilla whilst displaying the Hebrew text. The reading is clear and at a speed most readers of Hebrew can follow without difficulty. The reading is spread across two videos – the concluding video is Purim 2013 Megilla Reading CONCLUSION)
YouTube – Purim 2012 Young Israel Bayswater, New York (Megillah Reading). Video of the introductory blessings and reading of the first part of the Book of Esther on Purim. Shows congregants in fancy dress for the holiday of Purim, congregants following the reading and also making noise when Haman’s name is mentioned (note that Haman’s name is not mentioned until early in chapter 3).
YouTube – Lego Purim. A video by Aish Hatorah telling the story of Purim which is contained in the Megillah.