Tears and Empowerment on Purim

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.

62478_10151362867166848_345428059_nUnfortunately, 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.

You can learn how to read megillah at JOFA.org/Project_Esther

You can learn how to read megillah at JOFA’s Project Esther Site

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.

Posted on February 19, 2015

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