Wednesday of Holy Week: The Whole Megillah

megillat estherDuring Holy Week, in the traditional Roman Rite we read or sing all four Gospel accounts of the Passion of the Lord.

Tomorrow, Spy Wednesday, we read or sing the whole Passion according to Luke.  Mass can get a little long, even on the weekdays of Holy Week.

This year our Wednesday of Holy Week, 23 March, coincides with the beginning of the Jewish holiday Purim, which celebrates how God, through Esther and her adoptive father Mordechai, saved the lives of the Jewish people from the hateful Hamman and the King during the Persian captivity.

One of the customs of Purim is to read or sing the whole scroll of the Book of Esther, which is called “the whole megillah (megillat – scroll)”.  There are several “megillah books”, but Esther is probably the most associated with the word.   During the singing of the whole megillah, when the name of the evil Hamman is pronounced, the people often shout and make noise with noisemakers to blot out his name, a kind of damnatio memoriae.  There are some interesting Youtube videos of the singing of Esther that have this blotting out of “Hamman”.   For example, HERE, at synagogue in Tampa, they really get into it.  Check out about 1:30.

By the way, don’t be puzzled by the seemingly cheerful raucous music that introduce some of these Megillah Esther videos.  Purim is a time of serious partying.   There is a lot of dressing up in costumes and feasting.

Here is a singing of Esther from the Synagogue in Rome (Hebrew with an Italian accent).  Chapter 3 starts at 12:35 or so and right after is a mention of the hated Hamman.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. msc says:

    I had a Jewish girlfriend once and went with her to the synagogue on Purim and one great party afterwards. I envy them such a holiday.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    It’s consoling to see people who know who they are and stick to it. As a Roman Catholic during these weird times I can’t help envying them. If I were Jewish I’d be Orthodox.

  3. joan ellen says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z. This is so ‘soul filling’.

  4. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Yes, this is the Jewish party of the year. An old Talmudic saying says, “You should drink enough on Purim that you cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman.’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.'”

    And no, I am not making this up:

  5. NoraLee9 says:

    The Jews are our spiritual ancestors. The have a common language to unite them in prayer, scripture and in their State. Why have we thrown off Latin? It makes no sense.

    Kathleen10, I totally agree with you.

  6. Pingback: SPY WEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Through my job I met a fellow who is not only an observant Jew, but a Kohen (a descendant of Aaron to whom certain blessings are entrusted). He’s now retired and moved out of the area to be closer to his grandchildren. He’s a magnificent man who manifests humility, generosity and many other natural virtues. For him and his family, I hope for the promise found in Romans 11:26.

  8. James in Perth says:

    Hamen! Boo, hiss!!

  9. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Oops. Forgot the point of my comment above. This fellow lived very close to his synagogue and said that was a very good thing, especially on Purim and during blizzards. This year he would have had a two-fer.

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