A Visit to Shushan

Purim and drama have always been passions in my family. This year they intertwined in a totally unexpected and unique way.

Having recently moved to Riverdale, I immediately joined the Shachar partnership Minyan which happily cushioned my arrival in a new neighborhood. After actively participating in a few tefillot (prayer services), I casually asked whether they read the megillah on Purim. The answer was:
Shachar Purim

  • “Of course, but we do it a bit differently”
  • “Hmm” (I wondered) “what could that be?”
  • “Think of the Megila as a play…”
  • “Cool – different – how do you do it?”
  • “Here’s how we do it”

In addition to having a narrator for each perek (chapter), there are also actors for all the speaking parts:

BJ Witch

– King Achashverosh
– Haman
– Queen Esther
– Mordechai
– Charvona
– Memuchan
– Na’arei HaMelech
– Zeresh

I was intrigued, I was curious, does it really work?

It was A M A Z I N G !!!

Just imagine: a roomful of people dressed up, a bima at the end, men on one side with a megillah, women on the other side with a megillah. Excitement crackling like electricity around the bima; sometimes there are as  many as 6-7 people up there one time. Wherever there is dialog, the reading goes back and forth – often in the middle of a pasuk (verse). Here’s a sample from perek 6, pasuk 5:

  • Narrator: “ויאמרו נערי המלך אליו”
  • Servants: “הנה המן עומד בחצר”
  • Narrator: “ויאמר המלך”
  • King:         “יבוא”

Haman had his own megillah and was just phenomenal – he walked around with his megillah so that he could place himself at strategic positions while both reading and playing his part to the hilt. When dreaming of power, his voice was rich and full, when actually leading Mordechai, his whole body drooped and his voice was despondent. Not to mention hanging himself when the time came…

I’ve been listening to the megillah for many years but this year it came alive such as never before.

Did you know that Mordechai has but a short line that he actually speaks? He is a man of action but few words. Did you ever notice that when Esther turns to the King it’s always with a beseeching and fawning opening?

I had the privilege of reading perek 1 (with Memuchan) and perek 6 (with Achashverosh, Na’arei HaMelech, Haman, Zeresh). I truly felt as if I was a part of the scene, delivering lines to the actors while telling the kahal (congregation) the story. The speaking parts were read with drama, emotion and trop (cantillation); we weren’t reading about Shushan – we were in Shushan!

MP and Bert 
A short word of caution
 to you readers out there: the next morning I joined a women’s reading in Scarsdale. A moment before the reading started, I was offered the opportunity to read my prakim again. I said yes – but then I realized – I know perek 6 as I’ve read it before in its entirety. But not perek 1 – I was missing the 5 psukim of Memuchan’s speech! Definitely on my list for next year…but only after going back to Shushan at night with Minyan Shachar.


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