When to read?
The opening mishna of the gemara Megillah, which deals extensively with the laws of Purim and the dates and times and the megillah should be read, states as follows:
The Megillah is sometimes read on the eleventh, the twelfth, the thirteenth, the fourteenth, [and sometimes] on the fifteenth [of Adar], never earlier [than the eleventh] and never later [than the fifteenth].
Now, we understand that, at the time, not everyone was able to read the megillah on the same day, and so a range of days was on offer. Reading was possible on 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th of Adar. This seems to be an exhaustive list. So why, then, does the mishna need go to on to tell us that we may never read earlier than 11th Adar, and never later than 15th? There is a seeming redundancy.
In order to answer this question, we need to look at the Shem (name) of Hashem that we use everyday in our davening.
Although Hashem’s name is spelt Y-K-V-K, we pronounce it as ADON-I. We are in galus (exile) and therefore use this ‘lower form’ of name, which reflects the fact that Hashem is hidden. This theme is, of course, reflected in the megillah, where Hashem’s actions are behind the scenes and obscured from view.
Now, lets do some simple maths:
- The letters of ADON-I equal 26;
- The letters of Y-K-V-K equal 65.
With this in hand, we can now understand the mishna’s instruction:
You must read the megillah on 11 + 12 + 13 +14 + 16…which equals 65 – i.e. Y-K-V-K.
You must not read the megillah before the 11th (i.e. 10), or after 15th (i.e. 16)…10 + 16 = 26 – i.e. ADON-I .
The message of the mishna is, itself, hidden, but very profound. The very dates on which we read are telling us to look for hidden meaning, to look beneath the surface, and recognise Hashem wherever He is found.
The beloved spreadsheet
Attention to detail, and scrutiny and analysis of text and numbers, is a much sought after skill in the workplace. Those that have it will impress and perform, and those that don’t risk coming across as sloppy or clumsy in their analysis.
We strive every day at work to slow down, to double check our work, to make sure we have captured every nuance. The risk of doing otherwise could be disastrous – one zero missing from a balance sheet can make a big difference.
Onwards to Sunday
With this in mind, let us use these carefully honed skills, and apply them for a Torah purpose. We can look at the megillah with fresh eyes, and re-read that childhood story with all the nuances and hidden meanings that it contains.
In doing so, may we truly come to the point where we cannot distinguish between Baruch Mordechai and Arur Haman. And recognise Hashem’s hand in everything we do.
The Working Jew.
 Gemarah Megillah, Perek 1, Mishna 1.