In addition to a new Torah scroll, many communities and individuals find it meaningful to commission their own Megillat Esther (Scroll of Esther), the scroll read aloud in the synagogue on Purim. The person reading aloud for the community must read from a kosher scroll, so Megillat Esther is written on parchment, with kosher ink and a quill, in the same script as in a Torah scroll.
Megillot come in various formats, from tiny scrolls with columns 11 lines high, to large scrolls of columns 42 lines high. Megillot Esther may be “illuminated” with decorative borders, pictures around the text, or pictures between columns.
Like a Torah scroll, there are several elements for you and/or your congregation to consider when commissioning a Megillat Esther:
- Your rough budget for the scroll and any educational programming
- Type of scroll you would like
- Type of scribe you would like
- How you would like to engage the congregation
- Your timeline
- Your fundraising goals, if any
- Your educational goals
Every congregation’s needs and ideas are different. Stam Scribes have experience writing Megillot for a range of congregations and individuals, working with Jews from Renewal and Reconstructionist denominations through interdemoninational GLBT communities and partnership minyanim.
The other megillot, scrolls, used in the liturgy (Eicha/Lamentations, Kohelet/Ecclesiastes, Shir ha’Shirim/Song of Songs, and Rut/Ruth) and read on festivals, are usually read from printed books. The same is true of the Haftarot read on Shabbat and festivals. However, some communities choose to grant extra honor to these readings by reading them from a scroll also. If you are interested in commissioning one of the other megillot, one of us at Stam Scribes would be happy to discuss your project.
Note: Most communities grounded in traditional halakha adhere to the classical Talmudic position that women are ineligible to write Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot. However, many contemporary halakhic authorities and communities hold that, according to the majority of authorities and the weight of halakhic reasoning, women are indeed eligible to write Megillat Esther. For example, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, an Open Orthodox synagogue in Riverdale, New York, is currently commissioning a new Megillat Esther for their community, and will be the first Orthodox congregation to allow women to “write” letters in the scroll as part of its dedication. See this article in The Edah Journal for a scholarly examination of women’s eligibility to write megillot.