3/09/2009

Memorable Megilla Readings

Have Megilla, will travel. That pretty much sums up my Purims for the past 17 years or so. I got a Megillah for my Bar Mitzvah, and at some point in my teenage years, my father incentivized me learning how to work it, and so now I lain several times every year. Usually about 4x per Purim. I generally lain at home at night and by day, and then usually at least once more each night and day. This year will be no exception. Here are some of the more memorable ones:

1) On Purim, 1992, my friend Kess (who I recently reconnected with via Facebook after having fallen out of touch for over a decade) had a gig playing the drums at a post-Megillah party at a shul in B-more. He set up his equipment and then walked over to the sanctuary - where they were in the middle of the second chapter. He calls me up, I take my Megillah with me to a party scheduled for later that evening at Kosher Bite, and I end up reading it for him in his car (the only quiet place there). 21 minutes is still a personal record, I think.

2) During the KBY years (1994-96, and again just for Purim in 1998), I made a habit of travelling to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot with some other guys, we'd go from room to room singing and making merry, and we'd also take down the room numbers of anyone who wanted to hear the Megilah. About three of us could lain and had Megillahs, so we'd divide it up and cover ground. Those really felt nice. Of course, I once ended up laining to someone who was asleep by the end of the first chapter (at least I hope she was just asleep).

3) In 1997, I got drunk at night, slept until the next afternoon, and ended up having to borrow a Megillah (my Megillah was an ocean away) from a friend (now the Rav in Yenem's Velt), which I lained in the back seat of another friend's car on the way to the Purim party of a YU Rosh Yeshiva whose shiur I was attending at the time. I left his Megillah in the car, and it was nearly a year before I got it back for him. Funny enough, me, the Megillah owner, and the car owner all ended up together at the Gruss Kollel 2 years later (where the current Yenem's Velter Rav did pishut yadayim ve-raglayim when saying "eshtachaveh el heichal kodshecha" of Yedid Nefesh; he somehow got the idea that Purim was an appropriate time for shaleshides, but I digress).

4) I wrote about this one 2 years ago, but it happened in 2004. That year, there was a woman in the community who was recovering from surgery and couldn’t really move around much, so they asked if I could come by and lain for her. Present for the reading was the woman, her husband, and their three large dogs. Three large dogs in a small apartment means that the apartment smells like dog and dog food. Plus, these were apparently shedding dogs, because I could feel my nose start to tingle as soon as I walked in (I have severe pet hair allergies). Anyhow, at first they tried to lock the dogs in one room while I layned in the another, but the dogs weren’t crazy about that and raised quite the ruckus. So we moved the dogs out to where I was layning, and they calmed down. I was layning at blazing speed, racing against time before I erupted in sneezing fits. I was going for broke, trying to shatter the 21-minute mark. But the dogs had other ideas. The first time I reached the word ‘Haman’, the (human) couple began clapping and stomping. Needless to say, this spooked the dogs, who started barking like crazy. When they finally calmed down, it wasn’t long before the same happened at the next ‘Haman’. After a little while, the dogs had been well-trained to bark like crazy whenever they heard the word ‘Haman’, much to my chagrin (though Pavlov was no doubt schepping nachas). And inevitably, I started sneezing, but I tried to hold back until the Haman breaks. So every time I said Haman, the couple would be clapping and stomping, the dogs would be barking, and I would be sneezing. I’m glad I can laugh about it now.

4) I only spent one Purim at Maryland (speaking of which, Gary must go). The other year I was there, Purim fell out during Spring Break. The next year was a different story. Students had classes, there were a whole bunch of different readings, and so I lained 5 times that Purim: once at Hillel, twice at my house, once in the room of a sick student (which then became the defualt location for another 8 or 9 students who called during the day to ask if there was going to be another reading), and, acharon acharon chaviv, at a bar in College Park (Mexican style bar/grill that hosted a Purim party that year; can't remember the name). I knew there would be a bunch of students there who hadn't made it to the earlier readings, so I worked it out with the organizers that there would be a reading on premises. A good number of people attending the reading, but the party did not stop. That was the loudest reading of my life, trying to make myself heard over the gangsta rap.

5) Last year, things got hectic between me going to shul, then the shul Purim party, and then my wife attending her school Purim party. She got home after midnight and had not yet heard the Megillah (she tried attending an earlier reading, but Raphi barged in hysterical, and she had to leave). I was sound asleep. Now, the Mishna and Gemara of Megillah are pretty well known. The Mishna refers to a case of ha-korei u-mitnamnem - one is reading the Megillah and constantly nodding off. Well, it happened. My wife had to wake me up several times during the course of the reading, as I just kept falling back asleep while reading. I already lained for her tonight, so I won't have that problem this year (she's at the same school party again as we speak).

It might be true that funny things just seem to happen, but, in truth, if you have a Megillah and are willing to travel, funny things will tend to happen on their own.
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