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One Shot Too Many

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Dear Loyal Readers,

I have many thoughts to share as I have not had the chance to write at all this past week. However, I have a pounding headache and it’s got Slivovitz written all over it!!

I just returned to my desk after hearing the least satisfying Megillah reading I’ve ever heard in my life. One of the agencies in our building (there is a reason I’m a diehard BJE supporter) arranged for a Megillah reading. 5 people came. This is not a misprint. 5 people…out of all the Jews who work in this building. Well, 6 if you count the reader. Or maybe just 2 if you only count the men. The reader was from Chabad and in fact the only other man present recited the blessing on our behalf. Although women are also commanded to hear the reading, we can’t actually say the blessing. Um…someone explain this to me. And a real explanation — not just a cynical, pseudo-Ortho explanation.

The reading of the Megillah on Purim is one of those time-bound mitzvot that women are actually obligated to observe. The reason is, according to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, that they too were involved in the miraculous rescue from certain death at the hands of Haman.

What does this mean? The Rashbam (in Pesachim 108b) points out that it is a woman (Esther!) who brought about the rescue in the first place. I think that this is a great reason. The Tosafot, however, disagree with this reasoning. I suspect that it is not a slight to Esther. Rather, the Tosafot, in true Tosafot-form, focus on the grammatical problem presented by the phrase “they too.” How could ben Levi’s statement point to a woman’s primary involvement in the story (e.g. Esther) when this phrase seems to indicate something else? So the explanation favoured by the Tosafot is that since the women were equally threatened by Haman’s evil decree, so too were they equally saved. Also, a great reason.

Now Rashi points out that since women have an obligation equal to that of men, women are eligible to read the Megillah and any men hearing that reading will fulfill his obligation. A man way beyond his time. Sadly,his opinion is contested by the Baal Hilchot Gedolot, who states that the obligation for women is to hear the reading not the actual act of reading…while men have the obligation to read it. Therefore, when one man hears it read by anbother man, it is considered as if he has read it himself. Not the case if a woman has read it. If you’d like to take a closer look at this and try to come to a comfortable conclusion (good-luck!), check out Orach Chaim 689:2 (that’s in the Shulchan Aruch, compiled by your friend and mine, Joseph Caro).

Back to this morning’s reading — so the Megillah chanter sped through the reading so fast that it was damn-near impossible to follow along. The law clearly states that every word must be heard in order to fulfill the mitzvah of reading the Megillah. I’m sorry but there is no way that the Speedy Gonzales method of reading would have satisfied the Sages of old.

There is a tradition that I’d never seen (I think that few Reform shuls observe it)until today and that is the congregational participation in the recitation of four key verses, known as the verses of redemption:

1. There was a Jewish man in Shushan, the capitol whose name was Mordechai, son of Yair, son of Shim’i, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. (2:5)
2. Mordechai left the King’s presence clad in royal apparel of blue and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, then the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad. (8:15)
3. The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honour. (8:16)
4. For Mordechai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahasuerus; he was a great man among the Jews, and popular with the mulititude of his brethern; he sought the good of his people and was concerned for the welfare of all his posterity. (10:3)

A nice tradition actually, and one that I would love to introduce to my shul. Needless to say that at this morning’s reading, I was the only one in the “congregation” reading the verses and to be honest, I didn’t read all that well. I was too busy trying to figure out where we were. And the man who was the only one kosher enough to recite the brachot on our behalf — well, he didn’t say much.

So what did we learn today children?

I learned that I like the way we do things in the Reform community — most of the time, that is. I like that our Megillah reading is in a language that we all understand. I like that it is read slowly and with feeling. I like that men and women must take equal responsibility for their own obligations to God.

And now, I am going to take more medicine for my headache and head down to get ready for our Purim carnival. I shall return with further Purim musings.

In the meantime, be happy, it’s Adar!!

Chag Purim Sameach!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. PepGiraffe permalink
    Monday, 20 March 2006 3:28 pm

    I’m not surprised by the six. It’s sad, but not unexpected. I think most Reform Jews don’t think about morning services. And maybe they had a premonition that it would be done Speedy-style (though that seems unlikely).

    At any rate, I like how we do things at CBT, which is Reform, but I haven’t liked any other Reform Purim service I have ever been to, mostly because they don’t actually read the Megillah – they do Purimschpiels instead. This year wasn’t the first time.

    On a related note, since this is one of the few holidays on which it is halachicly permitted to carry money, I think there should be a $1 surcharge for anyone who doesn’t come in costume. Some people might find it embarrassing to be the only person above the age of 10 in full Purim regalia. Luckily, I am not one of those people. [To be fair, Ace and the girl he is seeing also dressed up. I outfitted both of them in various costume pieces. I never throw anything away. Usually, that is to my detriment, but this time, it made me very popular. Also, I brought a boa for Sylvia and an orange foil autumn laurel-like crown for Jock. And some adults had hats that said I Love New York. I don’t think that counts as dressing up.]

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