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Reading Megillot Kohelet, Ruth, and Song of Songs


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 14, 5772
Dear Rabbi, The Megillot of Esther and Eichah are quite obviously apt for the festivals on which they are read. Esther depicts the story of Purim and Eicha laments the city that once was Jerusalem. It is my hunch that the Rabbis then saw this as an opportunity to start linking up the remaining Megillot with other chagim. Take Ruth, for example. The climax of the story takes place around the same time as the festival of Shavuot and Ruth herself is in fact a direct matriach of David ...who died on Shavuot, but there is no direct connection. Can it be said that Kohelet and Song of Songs were also "attached" to Sukkot and Pesach respectively, simply because the rabbis want us to read all 5 megilot over the year? I humbly await your response with great anticipation, Aaron
Shalom Aaron, Yes, your hunch is apparently correct, especially when there so many different reasons given for reading those three megilot on those three respective festivals, obviously none of those many reasons is the clear tradition, otherwise that “reason” would have been universally adopted! Nevertheless, the idea of wanting to read all of the megilot over the year is logical, and the festivals, when we want to fulfill “half for you (physical pleasure) and half for G-d (spiritual pleasure)”, are a logical time to “match” the remaining megillot to the remaining available times. Indeed, masechet Sofrim (14, 16), which goes back more than 1,000 years, already cites the custom of reading Ruth on Shavu’ot, and Song of Songs on Pesach, yet doesn’t mention reading Kohelet (Eccl.) on any holiday, and also infers that these are not universally accepted customs, and surely not on the level of reading Esther on Purim. An additional proof to this theory is that many sfaradim, who recite the Song of Songs every Friday night, have no need to do so on Pesach. Anyway, as (almost) all ancient customs, this should be followed as well, if such is the minhag in your community. Especially when so many meaningful explanations and connections have already been suggested (even if some are more convincing than others). Chag kasher v’Same’ach, With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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