The Whole Megillah

Thoughts from scribe-in-residence Julie Seltzer on what she's writing, her process, and the experience of writing a Torah on public view.

What does a scribe dress as for Purim? Why, a megillah, of course!

This past weekend was Purim, when, among other less holy activities, we read Megillat Esther – The Scroll of Esther. Megillat Esther must be read from a parchment scroll, making it a favorite holiday for scribes!

Writing Megillat Esther is often the first big undertaking for a scribe. For the most part, the same rules apply as apply to Torah, though some authorities allow for more leniencies, such as permitting decorations in the margins, and special flourishes with the crowns (called taggin). Additionally, Megillat Esther contains no names of God – so the newbie scribe does not have to worry about all of the rules and weightiness associated with writing a Name.

We talked about this and more, as we shaped Hamantashen – the traditional Purim cookie – at last week’s baking class [the next class is Matzah making].

For Purim I went dressed as, what else – the Whole Megillah.

The entire megillah is on my clothing (though laden, I am sure, with many mistakes). However, I wrote it in scratchy cursive writing, not Ashurit (the script used in sacred writings). It begins on my skirt, continues on my shirt, and finishes on my headband. The tights require some explanation. The ten sons of Haman, traditionally read by the reader in a single breadth, must occupy their own column. What this means is that often (depending on the size of the megillah scroll*) the names of Haman’s sons must be written VERY LARGE in order to occupy an entire column [See photo]. There is also empty parchment space on each line between the name of the son, and the Hebrew direct object indicator (the word ואת). You see this on my tights. On one leg is the name of Haman’s sons, and on the other leg is the word ואת. And they are stretched out/enlarged, just like in a megillah!

Happy belated Purim!

Flickr Gallery of Costume Images

*although most megillot have these enlarged names of Haman’s sons, the preferred method in the halachic literature is to use an 11-line column (the shortest scroll size), so that the names of Haman’s sons do not have to be enlarged at all in order to occupy an entire column.


Linea said…
Shabbat Shalom Julie,
What a wonderful Purim costume! I love the metaphor of how the text in written on the body.
I have a scribal question that I didn't think to ask when I was at the CJM watching you write last Friday. What is the title of the text from which you are copying and where can one obtain a copy?
Thank you for the impactful work you do!
Julie Seltzer said…
Thank you both!
Linea, I copy from a scribe's tikkun. There are also tikkunim (plural)that people preparing to chant from torah use, which are more readily available. The scribe's version has special notations that are helpful for the writing, but other than that, they are the same. Here's a link to where you can buy a tikkun online:
Powerful way to become Esther...may all be blessed to lead and inspire with your skills in such creative ways.
For more on Purim spirituality, visit and our book, Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice: Holy Days and Shabbat

Popular posts from this blog

“A Gentile’s House”: Lolita and the Holocaust

Cats: The Beat Generation’s Secret Love Affair

Stanley Kubrick: A Jewish Story