Scrolling Through The Megillot
The Five Megillot
The Tanakh includes five very special books called the five megillot, or scrolls. The first of the five is called the Song of Songs (שיר השירים - Shir HaShirim).
  • Go to the Table of Contents for the Tanakh.
  • Find “Song of Songs” in the Table of Contents.
  • Write the answers to the following questions in a comment box, on a piece of paper or on a Google Doc.
    • In which section of the Tanakh is it located?
    • What are the names of the next four books?
Together, these five books are called the five megillot. The word “megillah” means scroll.
Each of the megillot is associated with a different holiday and is read on that day. The five holidays are:
  • Pesach
  • Shavuot
  • Tisha B’Av
  • Sukkot
  • Purim
In this activity, you will be answering the question “How is each megillah connected to the holiday on which it is read?”
Although you will not have to read each megillah in full, you will be reading summaries and portions of text. If you would like to read more, click on the verses to open the megillah in the Sefaria library.
Esther - Saved by a Queen
The first step is to connect each megillah to a holiday or special day on the Jewish calendar.
Let’s start with the most obvious connection.
  • Megillat Esther tells the story of a very fun holiday. Read the verses from megillah. Which holiday is it?
  • Add the name of the megillah and the holiday to your sheet, paper, or doc.
(א) וַיְהִ֖י בִּימֵ֣י אֲחַשְׁוֵר֑וֹשׁ ה֣וּא אֲחַשְׁוֵר֗וֹשׁ הַמֹּלֵךְ֙ מֵהֹ֣דּוּ וְעַד־כּ֔וּשׁ שֶׁ֛בַע וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים וּמֵאָ֖ה מְדִינָֽה׃
(1) It happened in the days of Ahasuerus—that Ahasuerus who reigned over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.
(כ) אֵ֣ין אֶסְתֵּ֗ר מַגֶּ֤דֶת מֽוֹלַדְתָּהּ֙ וְאֶת־עַמָּ֔הּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וְאֶת־מַאֲמַ֤ר מָרְדֳּכַי֙ אֶסְתֵּ֣ר עֹשָׂ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר הָיְתָ֥ה בְאָמְנָ֖ה אִתּֽוֹ׃ (ס)
(20) But Esther still did not reveal her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had instructed her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai’s bidding, as she had done when she was under his tutelage.
(א) אַחַ֣ר ׀ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה גִּדַּל֩ הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֜וֹשׁ אֶת־הָמָ֧ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֛תָא הָאֲגָגִ֖י וַֽיְנַשְּׂאֵ֑הוּ וַיָּ֙שֶׂם֙ אֶת־כִּסְא֔וֹ מֵעַ֕ל כָּל־הַשָּׂרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּֽוֹ׃
(1) Some time afterward, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite; he advanced him and seated him higher than any of his fellow officials.
Before moving to the next step, check your answers with your teacher.

Lamentations - Mourning the Temple
The book of Lamentations describes a sad event in the history of the Jewish people. The megillah is read on the anniversary of the event which is commemorated with fasting and other customs of mourning.
  • Read the verses from Lamentations below.
  • On which of the days listed above do you think that Lamentations is read?
  • Add the name of the megillah and the holiday to your sheet, paper, or doc.
(ח) חֵ֤טְא חָֽטְאָה֙ יְר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם עַל־כֵּ֖ן לְנִידָ֣ה הָיָ֑תָה כָּֽל־מְכַבְּדֶ֤יהָ הִזִּיל֙וּהָ֙ כִּי־רָא֣וּ עֶרְוָתָ֔הּ גַּם־הִ֥יא נֶאֶנְחָ֖ה וַתָּ֥שָׁב אָחֽוֹר׃ (ס)
(8) Jerusalem has greatly sinned, Therefore she is become a mockery. All who admired her despise her, For they have seen her disgraced; And she can only sigh And shrink back.
(יא) כָּל֨וּ בַדְּמָע֤וֹת עֵינַי֙ חֳמַרְמְר֣וּ מֵעַ֔י נִשְׁפַּ֤ךְ לָאָ֙רֶץ֙ כְּבֵדִ֔י עַל־שֶׁ֖בֶר בַּת־עַמִּ֑י ...
(11) My eyes are spent with tears, My heart is in tumult, My being melts away Over the ruin of my poor people...
(יב) לֹ֤א הֶאֱמִ֙ינוּ֙ מַלְכֵי־אֶ֔רֶץ וכל [כֹּ֖ל] יֹשְׁבֵ֣י תֵבֵ֑ל כִּ֤י יָבֹא֙ צַ֣ר וְאוֹיֵ֔ב בְּשַׁעֲרֵ֖י יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ (ס)
(12) The kings of the earth did not believe, Nor any of the inhabitants of the world, That foe or adversary could enter The gates of Jerusalem.
Before moving to the next step, check your answers with your teacher.
We have now crossed two megillot off the list.

Ruth - Accepting the Torah
Megillat Ruth tells the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi and her family were living in Moab. One of Naomi’s sons married Ruth, a Moabite woman. After the death of Naomi’s husband and sons, Naomi decides to return to Israel. Ruth insists on going with her mother-in-law and adopts Naomi’s religion, becoming part of the Jewish people. Since the women have no means of support, Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field. Gleaning means picking up the fallen crops that the pickers must leave in the field for the poor. Boaz and Ruth get married and their great-grandson is King David.
The connection between Megillat Ruth and its holiday isn’t so clear. There are generally three reasons for reading the megillah on this holiday. The reasons are listed below. From the clues, can you match the megillah with the holiday?
  • Ruth “accepts” or converts to Judaism and the holiday celebrates the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people.
(טז) וַתֹּ֤אמֶר רוּת֙ אַל־תִּפְגְּעִי־בִ֔י לְעָזְבֵ֖ךְ לָשׁ֣וּב מֵאַחֲרָ֑יִךְ כִּ֠י אֶל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֵּלְכִ֜י אֵלֵ֗ךְ וּבַאֲשֶׁ֤ר תָּלִ֙ינִי֙ אָלִ֔ין עַמֵּ֣ךְ עַמִּ֔י וֵאלֹהַ֖יִךְ אֱלֹהָֽי׃ (יז) בַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר תָּמ֙וּתִי֙ אָמ֔וּת וְשָׁ֖ם אֶקָּבֵ֑ר כֹּה֩ יַעֲשֶׂ֨ה יְהוָ֥ה לִי֙ וְכֹ֣ה יֹסִ֔יף כִּ֣י הַמָּ֔וֶת יַפְרִ֖יד בֵּינִ֥י וּבֵינֵֽךְ׃
(16) But Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (17) Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.”
  • Both the holiday and the megillah take place during the beginning of the harvest season.
(כב) וַתָּ֣שָׁב נָעֳמִ֗י וְר֨וּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּ֤ה כַלָּתָהּ֙ עִמָּ֔הּ הַשָּׁ֖בָה מִשְּׂדֵ֣י מוֹאָ֑ב וְהֵ֗מָּה בָּ֚אוּ בֵּ֣ית לֶ֔חֶם בִּתְחִלַּ֖ת קְצִ֥יר שְׂעֹרִֽים׃
(22) Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
  • According to legend, Ruth’s descendant, King David, died on this holiday.
(יז) וַתִּקְרֶאנָה֩ ל֨וֹ הַשְּׁכֵנ֥וֹת שֵׁם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר יֻלַּד־בֵּ֖ן לְנָעֳמִ֑י וַתִּקְרֶ֤אנָֽה שְׁמוֹ֙ עוֹבֵ֔ד ה֥וּא אֲבִי־יִשַׁ֖י אֲבִ֥י דָוִֽד׃ (פ)
(17) and the women neighbors gave him a name, saying, “A son is born to Naomi!” They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, father of David.
Write down the name of the megillah and the holiday.
Before moving to the next step, check your answers with your teacher.

Song of Songs - A Love Story
We have two megillot and two holidays left on our list.
Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), traditionally attributed to King Solomon, is a love story between a man and a woman. According to Jewish tradition, the man and the woman represent God and Israel and the love between them.
There are several explanations for why Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) is read on its holiday.
  • Just like the love that is depicted in the megillah, the story of the exodus from Egypt is a love story between God and Israel.
(ג) אֲנִ֤י לְדוֹדִי֙ וְדוֹדִ֣י לִ֔י הָרֹעֶ֖ה בַּשׁוֹשַׁנִּֽים׃ (ס)
(3) I am my beloved’s And my beloved is mine; He browses among the lilies.
  • The megillah refers to the spring and the exodus from Egypt took place in the spring.
(יא) כִּֽי־הִנֵּ֥ה הסתו [הַסְּתָ֖יו] עָבָ֑ר הַגֶּ֕שֶׁם חָלַ֖ף הָלַ֥ךְ לֽוֹ׃ (יב) הַנִּצָּנִים֙ נִרְא֣וּ בָאָ֔רֶץ עֵ֥ת הַזָּמִ֖יר הִגִּ֑יעַ וְק֥וֹל הַתּ֖וֹר נִשְׁמַ֥ע בְּאַרְצֵֽנוּ׃
(11) For now the winter is past, The rains are over and gone. (12) The blossoms have appeared in the land, The time of pruning has come; The song of the turtledove Is heard in our land.
  • Some people feel that this megillah is a commentary on the exodus from Egypt.
(ט) לְסֻסָתִי֙ בְּרִכְבֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה דִּמִּיתִ֖יךְ רַעְיָתִֽי׃
(9) I have likened you, my darling, To a mare in Pharaoh’s chariots:
Write down the name of the megillah and the holiday.
Before moving to the next step, check your answers with your teacher.
Fun Fact: In some communities, this megillah is also read every Friday night.

Kohelet - The Last One
We have arrived at the final megillah. If everything has gone well, you should have one megillah and one holiday left over.
In Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), the author, also traditionally attributed to King Solomon, discusses the meaning of life and the best way to live one’s life. Although he has a pessimistic tone and says that much of what people do is meaningless, Kohelet believes that wisdom is an important part of life. He also encourages people to enjoy life, which is a gift from God.
Keeping in mind some of the types of connections that we have seen with the other megillot and holidays (season, theme) read the verses below from the megillah and try to think of a connection to the holiday on which it is read.
(א) דִּבְרֵי֙ קֹהֶ֣לֶת בֶּן־דָּוִ֔ד מֶ֖לֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ (ב) הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃ (ג) מַה־יִּתְר֖וֹן לָֽאָדָ֑ם בְּכָל־עֲמָל֔וֹ שֶֽׁיַּעֲמֹ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃ (ד) דּ֤וֹר הֹלֵךְ֙ וְד֣וֹר בָּ֔א וְהָאָ֖רֶץ לְעוֹלָ֥ם עֹמָֽדֶת׃
(1) The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem. (2) Utter futility!—said Koheleth— Utter futility! All is futile! (3) What real value is there for a man In all the gains he makes beneath the sun? (4) One generation goes, another comes, But the earth remains the same forever.
(כד) אֵֽין־ט֤וֹב בָּאָדָם֙ שֶׁיֹּאכַ֣ל וְשָׁתָ֔ה וְהֶרְאָ֧ה אֶת־נַפְשׁ֛וֹ ט֖וֹב בַּעֲמָל֑וֹ גַּם־זֹה֙ רָאִ֣יתִי אָ֔נִי כִּ֛י מִיַּ֥ד הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִֽיא׃
(24) There is nothing worthwhile for a man but to eat and drink and afford himself enjoyment with his means. And even that, I noted, comes from God.
ס֥וֹף דָּבָ֖ר הַכֹּ֣ל נִשְׁמָ֑ע אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֤ים יְרָא֙ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתָ֣יו שְׁמ֔וֹר כִּי־זֶ֖ה כָּל־הָאָדָֽם׃
The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind:
  • Write your ideas about the connection between the megillah and the holiday.

Designing Logos - Group work
You have now learned about the overall themes of the five megillot and their connections to five special days on the Jewish calendar.
  • Join with 4 other students to create a group of 5.
  • Each group member designs a logo for one of the megillot. Divide the megillot so that your group will have a logo for each megillah.
  • Design a logo that:
    • Expresses the theme of the megillah
    • Indicates the holiday on which it is read.
  • Share your logos with the class by hanging them on the wall, sharing on a Padlet board, adding them to a source sheet, or however you share work in your class..