The Koren Illustrated Five Megillot
Translated by Harold Fisch
Illustrated by Leela Ganin
Koren Publishers, 2009, 184 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 31, 2011
The Hebrew word Megillot is the plural of Megillah, which mean "scrolls" and "scroll." The five Megillot are read in synagogues during the five holidays Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Purim, and the fast of the ninth of the Hebrew month Av; the last being the traditional date of the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE and the second in 70 CE. Tradition established that the reading of the five books – Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentation, Koheleth, and Esther – occur on the five holidays. The practice most likely began when Jews saw that portions of the Five Books of Moses were read weekly, with parts of the prophets on Shabbat and holidays, but no part of the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew Bible, was read in the synagogue. Tradition requires that they be chanted from a scroll because this was the way the volumes were read before books were printed. Thus, following the ancient practice joins the modern Jew with his and her ancestors.
This beautiful Koren edition is unique. In the Hebrew text, to cite one of many differences, the letter shin is printed in eight different ways so that readers can easily differentiate an s, sh, os, so, oso, sho, osho, and osh. The English translation, to cite other distinctions, was composed to introduce much of the flavor of the original frequently poetic Hebrew, and the biblical names are retained by translating them in their Hebrew forms, such as Shelomo instead of Solomon. Additionally, almost every other page highlights what Koren considers a significant passage. There are also as many as ten paintings for each of the five Megillot, thereby decorating the reading and making it more enjoyable.