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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Five Scrolls

On five occasions during the year, one of the five scrolls is read in the synagogue: The Song of Songs (during the week of Passover); the Scroll of Ruth (Shavuot); Lamentations (Tish‘ah be’av); Ecclesiastes (during the week of Sukkot); and the Scroll of Esther (Purim). Evidence shows that during the geonic period some parts of the scrolls were also read on the Sabbaths prior to these occasions, in preparation for them.

The reading of the Scroll of Esther on Purim appears to be the most ancient of all (see m. Meg. 1:1). This is self‐evident, since the whole story of the origin of Purim is contained in this scroll. The second scroll to be introduced into the synagogue would appear to be Lamentations, which relates to the story of the destruction of the Temple. Evidence of its recitation on Tish‘ah be’av may already be found in the writings of the Sages (e.g., Lam. Rab., petiπta 17). The other three scrolls, which are read on the three pilgrimage festivals, apparently were not read liturgically in the synagogue until the end of the period of the Sages, or even until the geonic period (see Tractate Soferim 14:3). An adequate explanation has yet to be offered as to why a certain scroll is read on a given festival. The links between the scrolls and the festivals on which they are recited are vague and mainly of a homiletic nature. Apparently, once Esther and Lamentations came to be read in the synagogue, because of their close ties with the occasions on which they were read, a need was felt to grant the other three scrolls a similar status. Thus, for reasons we cannot fully discern, they slowly entered the world of the synagogue. The result was that those attending synagogue on the three festivals were exposed to all portions of Scriptures (Torah, Prophets, Writings), which marked the synagogue activities in an especially vigorous and emphatic manner.

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