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3 Things You Didn't Know About Beth El's Megillot

02/27/2018 03:53:10 PM


By: Ben Kreshtool, Ritual Director 

At Beth El, we are fortunate to have many beautiful ritual objects that enhance our spiritual experiences. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday of Purim, I thought it would be neat to share just a few of the Megillot that Beth El owns. The Book of Esther is traditionally read in the synagogue on the eve of Purim and then again in the morning. It is read from a scroll very similar to a Torah scroll. Just like a Torah scroll, a Megillah scroll can be made from the skin of any kosher animal. 

But not all Megillot are like - even Beth El's many Megillot are unique. Here are three things you might not know about Beth El's Megillot: 

  1. One of Beth El's Megillah Scrolls Is Made From A Rare Parchment

    The most common type of Megillah parchment is made from a cow, but some Middle Eastern Jewish communities - like those in Yemen and Iraq - used deerskin. Beth El is in possession of one such Megillah scroll made from deerskin parchment. The deerskin leather of t his Megillah is much softer than that of a cow, and the ink is beautiful, glossy, and very easy to read. I am told that Rabbi Loeb z"l came across this scroll on one of this many vists to Israel and brought it home with him for the synagogue to use on Purim. 

  2. We Have A Megillah From One of the World's Most Prestigious Art Schools

    In another of Rabbi Loeb's numerous journeys through Israel he came across a very small, yet beautiful silver filigree megillah. Bearing the seal of the Bezalel Society of Warsaw, this Megillah was made by the famous Israeli Bezalel Academy of Arts and Designs in the early half of the 20th century. The Warsaw Society was set up so that Jewish communities in Poland could support the artistic endeavors in what would become the State of Israel.

  3. One Megillah's Beauty Is Only Exceeded by its Mystery

    It is not entirely known how the last Megillah came to be here at Beth El. It is a fairly standard Megillah that does not have its own case, is made on traditional parchment and has a very standard script. But this Megillah is unique because of the beautiful crowns that adorn the letter “lamed” in the word “HaMelech” that traditionally begins almost every column of the Megillah. These ornamentations are elaborately detailed and may hint of Kabbalistic designs. There is a debate about whether or not these types of embellishments are even allowed on a Megillah scroll, but that lends itself to the mystery of this beautiful scroll.

I am grateful to Rabbi Loeb for his traveling spirit, and his love for beautiful ritual objects. His keen eyes brought us treasures that allow us to fulfill the principle of "Hidur Mitzvah," beautifying the commandment. We hope that you'll join us for Purim celebrations on Wednesday evening. I personally will be reading from the deerskin scroll, while Tzippi King will read from her father Cantor King's scroll.

Sat, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781