What are the Megillot?

The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot (מגילות in Hebrew) are parts of the Ketuvim (“Writings”), the third major section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition.

All five of these megillot (“scrolls”) are traditionally read publicly in the synagogue over the course of the year in 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).

Only two of the megillot are traditionally read in all Jewish communities, Esther on Purim and Lamentations on the Ninth of Av. The practice of reading the other three books on the Three Pilgrimage Festivals is widespread but by no means universal. To read them is a venerable custom among Ashkenazim, 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.

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