Friday, March 21, 2008

The Great Purim Sideways Caper

Last night I read Chapter 6 of Megillat Esther at Matan, an institution of high-level Jewish learning for women. One of the many services that Matan provides to the community is a Megillah reading by and for women, one of dozens, if not hundreds, of such readings that take place every year in Jerusalem and throughout Israel and the Jewish world.

When Matan invited me to read for them again this year, the woman who called me wanted to know what chapter I would like to choose. I asked for Chapter 6, which is my favorite. Not only is it wonderfully actable (can’t you just see Haman drooling over the prospect of wearing the royal robe and crown and riding the king’s own horse down the main street of the capital?), but it also contains the story’s turning point: just when it seems that things cannot look any worse for the Jews of the Persian Empire, the hidden hand of God intervenes and things suddenly begin to look a good deal better.

Although I have been reading the Megillah at various women’s readings for more than a decade, until last night I had only one recording of my doing so (on the interactive CD-ROM Purim Rock), which does not include visuals. So I asked a young woman, also a reader, to record my reading if it wouldn’t interfere with her concentration, since according to Jewish law, one must hear every word of the Megillah. She agreed, saying that it would be no problem.

I didn’t look at the camera at all while I was being filmed, so it was only when I got home that I discovered that in keeping with the topsy-turvy nature of Purim, I had been filmed sideways. Early on in the chapter, the woman who recorded me rotated the camera ninety degrees, not realizing that this would rotate the picture as well.

I rotated the picture back as best I could using Windows Movie Maker. So while most of the frames are now properly right-side-up, there is still some visual distortion, and everything there (including myself) looks a bit wider than it actually is.

All that said, without further ado, here is the first (and so far the only) visual recording of my Megillah reading. I will try to get more today, since I am reading two different chapters in two different places. If I succeed, you can be sure that I will remind the person holding my camera: “Please, whatever you do, don’t flip it!”

A happy Purim!

(Begin reading the Book of Esther—with the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation—here.)

(Read about the Book of Esther—the story behind Purim—here.)

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