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Five Megillot

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Books of Ketuvim

Three Poetic Books
1. Psalms
2. Book of Proverbs
3. Book of Job
Five Megillot
4. Song of Solomon
5. Book of Ruth
6. Book of Lamentations
7. Ecclesiastes
8. Book of Esther
Other Books
9. Book of Daniel
10. Book of Ezra - Book of Nehemiah
11. Books of Chronicles

The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot (Hebrew: חמש מגילות‎, Hamesh Megillot or Chomeish Megillôs) are parts of the third major section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), which is Ketuvim ("The Writings"). These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition.

The Five Scrolls are:

  1. The Song of Songs
  2. Book of Ruth
  3. Book of Lamentations
  4. Ecclesiastes
  5. Book of Esther


An early testimony that these five scrolls were grouped together is in the Midrash Rabba. This midrash was compiled on the Pentateuch and on the Five Scrolls.

Liturgical use

All five of these megillot ("scrolls") are traditionally read publicly in the synagogue over the course of the year in many Jewish communities. In common printed editions of the Tanakh they appear in the order that they are read in the synagogue on holidays (beginning with Passover), thus:

  1. The Song of Songs (Hebrew: Shir ha-Shirim; שיר השירים) is read publicly in some communities, especially by Ashkenazim, on the Sabbath of Passover. In most Eastern Jewish communities it is read publicly each week at the onset of the Sabbath. There is also a widespread custom to read it at the end of the Passover seder.
  2. Book of Ruth (רות) is read in some communities, especially by Ashkenazim, before the reading of the Torah on the morning of Shavuot. Others read it in the Tikkun at night, or not at all.
  3. Book of Lamentations (Hebrew: Eikhah or Kinnot; איכה) is read on the Ninth of Av in all Jewish communities.
  4. Ecclesiastes (Hebrew: Kohelet; קהלת) is read publicly in some communities, especially by Ashkenazim, on the Sabbath of Sukkot. In other communities it is not read at all.
  5. Book of Esther (Hebrew אסתר) is read in all Jewish communities on Purim. The public reading is done twice, on the evening of Purim and once again the next morning.

When read in the synagogue, these five books are sung with cantillation (see below). In most communities, Esther is the only book accompanied by blessings before and after. But certain communities adopted the custom of the Vilna Gaon to recite blessings before the other four megillot (besides Esther) as well.

Similarly, the very term megillah ("scroll") is most widely used for the book of Esther, even though it is applied the rest as well. (As noted in Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, the term megillah is also used in a joking way, in reference to any lengthy story).

As indicated above, however, only two of the megillot are traditionally read in all Jewish communities, namely: Esther on Purim and Lamentations on the Ninth of Av. The practice to read the other three books on the Three Pilgrimage Festivals is widespread but by no means universal: To read them is a venerable custom among Ashkenazic Jews, but many Sephardic Jews do not associate the three books with the three festivals. The association is thus weaker also among Hasidic Jews who were influenced by Sephardic customs.

Other uses

Eugene H. Peterson's Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (ISBN 0-80280-660-0) examines the application of the Megillot to Christian pastoral theology.


The actual notes written in the printed texts of the Five Scrolls (though absent from the actual handwritten scrolls) are the same as the notes in the Humash. However, the tune in which they are read varies depending on the scroll. Esther is read in a happier tune than the sad tune of Lamentations. Traditionally, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, and Song of Songs are read with the same festive tune.

See also

External links

  • Recordings:
    • Cantor Rabinovicz - with cantillation and free to download (bottom of list; missing Kohelet).

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