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Mordechai Pinchas Sofer
illustrated megillah

As you will have read over the course of my diaries, my first major work of sofrut was a megillah.  This is the biblical book of Esther which tells of how she and her uncle Mordechai (a good name that!) saved the Jews from the hands of the wicked Haman who cast purim (lots) to decide on which date he would annihilate us.  Needless to say, he did not succeed and for his trouble was hanged on the selfsame gallows that he had built for Mordechai.  If you haven’t read the story, do so, as it is a marvellous piece of writing as well as a holy book, as good as any modern tale.

It is a mitsvah (commandment) that one should hear the megillah on Purim read from a kasher scroll.  All are bound by this commandment.

The megillah is also a work that can be written by a woman (Keset Hasofer - more on this in the future).  It consists of 10 chapters and is unique in that it does not once contain the name of God and is therefore an ideal work for scribes who are starting to learn their craft. 

illustrated megillah
illustrated megillah

There are various traditions for writing the megillah.  The most popular is that of starting each column with the word hamelech (the king), an allusoin to God, the King whose deeds are hidden in the megillah through what appears to be chance occurences.  Others say that one should start each column with the letter vav (similar to the vav ha-amudim tradition in a torah) and either way is fine as  long as one does not stretch the letters overmuch to accomodate this. 

Line lengths vary, with 11, 22 and 28 being common.  Eleven lines makes a very long small megillah but is preferred by many as it means the ten sons of Haman which are writ in one amud (column) alone (left) do not have to be enlarged.

The rules for writing a megillah are essentially those for a sefer torah, with two very significant differences:
1) A megillah that is pointed is not (according the Keset Hasofer) ruled invalid after the event (so a person who cannot read without vowels may therefore read).  However it is made very clear that one should not put the vowels in, in the first instance.
2) A megillah is permitted to have illustrations in the margins of the parchment surrounding the text.  However some authorities do not permit this.

ten sons of Haman illustrated
illustrated megillah

This last difference has meant that Sofrim have had a vehicle for artistic expression over the centuries and many beautiful manuscripts (such as those throughout this page and pictured below) have been produced.  I am not sure where I stand on illustrating megillot and my first was not illustrated.

Since this was my first major work to date as a sofer (correcting Sifrey Torah notwithstanding), I kept a pictorial history of the process.  

illustrated megillah
illustrated megillah illustrated megillah illustrated megillah

Photos on this page taken from various websites and books showing a variety of illustrated megillot through the ages.

Click on article to see a recent article in my local newspaper celebrating the siyyum of my second megillah.  Click on process to follow the process of the writing of my first megillah stage by stage.  Click on second to see the first and second amudim of my second megillah (about 150KB for each so should take 1/2 min to download on dial up) and on video to see a short video clip of the siyyum megillah in Harlow.

Mordechai Pinchas

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