The name, meaning “scrolls,” given to the collection of the five shortest books of the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew Bible. The Megillot are Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Although the current order of the books in printed Bibles follows their order in the annual Jewish liturgical cycle, in some older traditions they were arranged according to traditional chronology: Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther (see also b. B. Bat. 14b). The Song of Solomon is read on the feast of Passover, as well as preceding the service welcoming the Sabbath on Friday evenings; the love poetry of the Song is thought to represent in the former case the marriage of God and Israel and in the latter the marriage of Israel and Queen Sabbath. Ruth is read at Pentecost (Shavuʿot); among the reasons given are the setting of Ruth at the time of the barley harvest (Ruth 1.22), the tradition that King David, one of Ruth's descendants, was born and died at this time, and the relationship between Israel's assumption of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after the Exodus and Ruth's acceptance of Judaism. Lamentations, a series of dirges commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, is read on the ninth of the month of Ab, a fast day on which these events, and the destruction of the Second Temple as well, are said to have taken place. The somber mood of Ecclesiastes, read in the fall on the Feast of Booths (Sukkot), is thought to be a reflection of the season. Esther is read on Purim, the joyous holiday celebrating the salvation of the Jews as related in the book.

See also Canon, article on The Order of Books in the Hebrew Bible; Lectionaries, article on Jewish Traditions


Carl S. Ehrlich