By Rabbi Mark Melamut
“Really Rabbi, I don’t need the whole megillah. Can you just get to the point?” The term, “whole megillah,” derives from the Yiddish phrase, “gantse Megillah,” and has come to mean “an overly extended explanation or story, or something tediously complicated, or an involved situation or state of affairs.”(www.worldwidewords.org)
The whole megillah has made its way into our vocabulary from our practice of literally reading the whole megillah, the whole story of Purim. So, here’s my version of the whole megillah, in brief, on Purim.
Do you ever wonder why the coming months are referred to by many as “March Madness?” Okay, so the month of March is deemed “madness,” because it of course refers to the wild passion and excitement of the College Basketball playoffs. Perhaps though, The Final Four, are not exactly what we think. The rabbis teach us that one day, when we’ve perfected life and when peace runs throughout the world, all of the Jewish holidays will be abolished, except one. Guess which holiday that is? Purim.
“And these days of Purim will not pass from among the Jewish people and their memory will not cease from their descendants.” (Esther 9:28)
If Purim is the energizer-bunny holiday, the one that is to outlast all others, then it must be that Purim’s obligations upon us are of utmost importance. What then are the final four, the four obligations or mitzvot of Purim, which will need to be carried out into perpetuity?
- Eating a Festive Meal & Rejoicing (of course)
- Sending gifts of food/mishloach manot to each other (of course, more food)
- Tzedakah/Caring for those in need
- Reading the Whole Megillah/The Scroll of Esther
We get the first three: eating, making sure others have something to eat, and caring for those who are in need. But, reading the megillah? Really? Why read the only book of our wisdom literature (other than Song of Songs) that doesn’t even mention G-d in it (at least outright)? We know that reading the whole megillah is important. It is incumbent upon us to read it, accompanied by a blessing, even when we are alone and unable to attend a public reading.
What then is the message of the whole megillah? Is it that miracles happen? We do, after all, insert into our prayers and before its reading, a blessing acknowledging them. Is it that G-d, though not always apparent, is here, but just hidden sometimes, like in the story? Or, is it that “purim/lots” – chances, possibilities, opportunities, and gambles – are a real force in our lives?
Of course, “it’s the whole megillah,” but the forces of chance and opportunity in our lives are real. On Purim, we recognize them symbolically, by hiding beneath masks and costumes. We realize that our deep need to be and feel in control, can only really be achieved by letting it go, and by ultimately letting laughter and levity control us for awhile.
Wishing you this Purim, the whole megillah – blessings of orah v’simcha v’sasson v’ikar/blessings of light, joy, gladness and honor.