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The Reading Community: A Literary-Conceptual Study of Mishnah Megillah

Rabbi Avie Walfish / November 11, 2019


Massekhet Megillah discusses two main topics: the reading of Megillat Esther and communal Torah reading, interspersing throughout the discussion a broad variety of other topics. By means of close reading techniques and intertextual analysis, we will try to understand how and why the Mishnah redactor has structured the discussion in this way, and what messages regarding Megillah and Torah readings are encoded in the text.

Many of the Mishnah's textual cues point towards the historical background behind the institution of communal reading of Scripture and guide us to a deeper understanding of how Jewish communal life was restructured in the wake of the destruction of the Temple.


  • Class 1: Biblical Background and Introduction to Mishnah Megillah – How does the Mishnah's presentation of the festival of Purim compare to the presentation in the Bible?
  • Class 2: Chapter 1, Mishnayot 1-3 – Three kinds of communities and their different dates for reading Megillah: how and why?
  • Class 3: Chapter 1, Mishnayot 4-11 – The "Ein Bein" interlude: its structure and purpose.
  • Class 4: Chapter 2 – The laws of Megillah reading and their hidden sources.
  • Class 5: Chapter 3, Mishnayot 1-3: The sanctity of the synagogue.
  • Class 6: Chapter 3, Mishnayot 4-6: Torah reading and the sanctity of festivals.
  • Class 7: Chapter 4, Mishnayot 1-3: Torah readers and the nature of communal worship.
  • Class 8: Chapter 4, Mishnayot 4-10: Torah reading as the foundation of community.


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Rabbi Avie Walfish

Until his recent retirement, Avraham (Avie) Walfish taught Talmud and Jewish Thought at the Herzog College in Alon Shvut, and headed the M.Ed. program in teaching Talmud and Jewish Thought in Michlala College in Jerusalem.  At Yeshiva University he completed his B.A. in philosophy, while studying Talmud with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik. After making aliyah, he received his rabbinic ordination from R. Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. at Hebrew University, writing his dissertation on literary features of Mishnah. He has taught and lectured in many frameworks in Israel and abroad, including Pardes Institute, Bar Ilan University, and Drisha. His extensive publications in different areas of Jewish studies include the Iyun Mishnah website and a recently published commentary on Mishnah Berakhot, Mishnaic Tapestries. In 2005 he was awarded the Prize of the Israeli Minister of Education for creative work in Jewish culture. Click here to access podcasts recorded by Avie Walfish.


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