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Megillah

Megillah a book of the Hebrew scriptures (the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) appointed to be read on certain Jewish notable days, especially the Book of Esther, read at the festival of Purim.
the whole megillah an informal expression for something in its entirety, especially a complicated set of arrangements or a long-winded story. The phrase, which represents Yiddish a gantse megile, alludes to the length of the Megillah.

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Megillah

Megillah (Heb., ‘scroll’). Each of the ‘five scrolls’ in the Hebrew Bible. The books of Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther are all referred to as ‘megillot’ (pl.), but later, Megillah came to refer to Esther alone. The term also refers to the tenth tractate in the Order Moʿed in the Mishnah.

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Megillah

MEGILLAH

MEGILLAH ("Scroll"), tenth tractate in the order Mo'ed, in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Megillah, in four chapters, deals with liturgical readings from the Bible, especially with the reading of the *Scroll of Esther on *Purim to which the word megillah particularly refers, and with related subjects. The regulations concerning the reading of the Scroll of Esther on Purim are largely dealt with in the first two chapters of the tractate. Chapter 1 is primarily concerned with determining on which day of Adar the megillah is to be read, there being a difference between walled cities on the one hand and open towns and villages on the other. Only the first half of this chapter (mishnayot 1–4) deals with the megillah, while the remainder (5–11) is a collection of various halakhot, which were included because they are all introduced by the same formula ("The only difference between a and b is …"). According to J.N. Epstein (Tanna'im, 257) this group belongs to the Mishnah of R. Akiva (Tosef. 1:7–21, gives a similar but longer group of such halakhot). Chapter 2 first discusses the appropriate way of reading the megillah, e.g., whether reciting by heart and reading in a language other than Hebrew are valid. It goes on to deal with the technicalities of writing a megillah to be used for public reading, e.g., whether it must be written on parchment, or whether paper may be used. Among other questions discussed is the qualification of the reader, and whether women or minors are fit to read it. There is also much extraneous matter in this chapter. Chapter 3 starts with a discussion on the sanctity of the synagogue and its appurtenances, but its main contents are the public readings from the Pentateuch and haftarah. Chapter 4 continues with the main subject but deals with other liturgical questions (e.g., public reading of the Shema, priestly blessings, etc.). The sequence of the chapters as set out above is the one found in current editions of the Mishnah, Jerusalem Talmud, and Tosefta, but in the Babylonian Talmud the order of the last two chapters is reversed. The reason is that since the first Mishnah of chapter 4 opens with the words "He who reads the megillah," it was thought appropriate that this chapter follow the first two, which deal mainly with the megillah.

Various strata can be detected in the Mishnah. In addition to the above-mentioned groups from the Mishnah of R. Akiva, R. Johanan attributes Mishnah 1:1 to Akiva (Meg. 2a). According to Epstein, Mishnah 2:6 belongs to Eleazar b. Simeon (cf. Men. 72a), Mishnah 3:1 is from the mishnayot of Menahem b. Yose, and Mishnah 3:6 from that of Judah b. Ilai; according to the Gemara (9b) the second part of 1:9 is Meir's, while its first part is of unknown origin. The order of the paragraphs in the Tosefta to Megillah usually corresponds to that in the Mishnah. It includes a vivid description of gatherings in Jerusalem for the performance of mitzvot (4 (3):15). There is a great deal of aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud. Deserving of particular mention are geographical notes (5b–6b), the observations on the origin of the Targums (3a) and of the Septuagint (8b–9b), the extensive aggadic Midrash to Esther, which is practically a complete Midrash to the Book of Esther (10a–17a), and the arrangement of the *Amidah (17b–18a). Of linguistic interest is the reference to the confusion of the letter alef with ayin in certain places, and the problem of correct pronunciation of the letters he and ḥet. There is less aggadic material in the Jerusalem Talmud than in the Babylonian. Unlike the latter, the Jerusalem Talmud does not give any aggadot about the story of Purim. It does, however, deal with the problem of the inclusion of the Book of Esther in the canon (1:7, 70d), and also has lengthy discussions on the laws of writing Torah scrolls and on the divine names (1:11, 71b–72a). It also gives the list of dates included in *Megillat Ta'anit (1:6, 70c).

bibliography:

Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, Seder Mo'ed (1958), 349–53; Epstein, Tannaim, index.

[Arnost Zvi Ehrman]

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Megillah

MEGILLAH

MEGILLAH (Heb. מְגִּלָּה; "scroll"), designation of each of the five scrolls of the Bible (*Ruth, *Song of Songs, *Lamentations, *Ecclesiastes, *Esther). When the scroll is not specifically named, the term Megillah most commonly refers to the scroll of Esther which is read on *Purim.

See Scroll of *Esther; *Scrolls, Five.

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