The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
Crying isn’t supposed to be part of Purim. Maybe it’s okay if you’re six and having a sugar-induced meltdown right when your parents tell you that, no, you can’t have another can of soda and fruit roll up for your seudah. But you’re not supposed to cry on Purim if you’re a grown woman and mother of children yourself.
Unfortunately, that’s what happened to me one year right before our seudah, Purim day feast. We had decided to participate in a community seudah at synagogue, which would allow us to enjoy the day without worrying about food preparation. And, super conveniently, there would be a Megillah reading right before sunset for those who would be attending the meal.
So imagine my horror when I sat down to hear the Megillah, and a few moments later, the live music in the adjacent room started up, loud enough for us to hear the music clearly through the walls. And then, when the young Megillah reader started a fast and mumbled reading of the Megillah, I knew it was going to be a challenge to hear every word and fulfill my obligation of hearing the Megillah read on Purim day.
Just a few verses in, I realized that I had already missed a few words. The reading was too difficult to hear, and the music was too loud, and it was too late to find another reading. For the first time ever, I was forced to forfeit the mitzvah of hearing every word of the Megillah.
I was totally helpless. I don’t know how to read the Megillah. I couldn’t obtain a Megillah and fulfill the obligation of reading the Megillah out loud to myself. I felt powerless to do anything, and all that was left for me to do at that point was cry. So I did.
After calming down (it was Purim, after all!) and reflecting a bit, I thought about how great it would be if I learned how to leyn the Megillah myself. I’m part of a more conservative Orthodox community, and a women’s reading wouldn’t be acceptable. And, honestly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it anyway. I’ve studied the sources and know that it’s a halakhically valid progression that’s been made in some communities, but I prefer a more traditional environment.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to leyn and do so privately, for myself. It would ensure that I’d alway be able to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Megillah, and I could read it whenever I wanted to during the day. All of that would really enhance my joy on Purim.
I still haven’t made the time to learn how to leyn. It’s still on my “bucket list.” But it’s there. And I know that not too many years ago, it never would have occurred to me to put it there. But the knowledge that I can make that choice to add it to my bucket list always makes me smile.
Pronounced: muh-GILL-uh, Origin: Hebrew, meaning “scroll,” it is usually used to refer to the scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther, also known as the Book of Esther), a book of the Bible traditionally read twice during the holiday of Purim. Slang: a long and tedious story or explanation.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.