Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Whole Megillah

The Jewish holiday of Purim begins today, so I thought I'd pass along this scene from Christopher Guest's mockumentary, "For Your Consideration."  Not because it sheds much light on the holiday; just because I think it's funny. 

The holiday of Purim is - in brief - a celebration of the events described in the book of Esther, which is one of five books in the Bible referred to as "megillot" (or, scrolls).  Each megillah is relatively short, and each is read liturgically on a particular holiday during the Jewish calendar.

Thinking about the megillah of Esther today called another song to mind (one even catchier than "The Purim Song," above) -  "Come Blow Your Horn," written by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen and popularized by the late, great Mr. Frank Sinatra (who else?).  The first bridge of the song employs the Yiddish phrase "the whole megillah," thus providing our very tenuous connection to Purim.

"Come Blow Your Horn" was used in a movie by the same name, based on a Neil Simon play, which tells the story of a swingin' sixties bachelor who tries to convert his younger brother to his womanizing ways. In the lyrics below, we see the older brother's philosophy of life, as he indoctrinates his younger brother on how to make a splash with the ladies:
Make like a Mister Milquetoast - and you'll get shut out
Make like a Mister Meek - and you'll get cut out
Make like a little lamb - and wham you're shorn
I tell you chum - it's time to come - blow your horn

Make like a Mister Mumbles - and you're a zero
Make like a Mister Big - they dig a hero
You've got to sound your "A" - the day you're born
I tell you chum - it's time to come - blow your horn

The taller the tree is - the sweeter the peach
I'll give you the whole magilla [sic]- in a one word speech - reach!

Make like the world's your pudding - but light the brandy
Even the mildest kiss - is a dan-dan-dandy
There'll be no love in bloom - come doomsday morn
I tell you chum - it's time to come - blow your horn

In civilized jungles - females adore
The lions who come on swinging - if you want to score - roar

You can be either read to - or be the reader
You can be either lead - or be the leader
Don't wait until you're told - you're old and worn

Take in some air - and get your lips puckered
Before you find - you're simply too tuckered

I tell you chum - it's time to come - blow your horn.

Fun song, right?  But  - beyond the use of "megillah" - how does it relate to Purim?  Well, it doesn't.  Not really.  I just had a Sinatra song stuck in my head, and I felt like sharing.

And yet - hang on just one dan-dan-dandy second - maybe there is something of the spirit of Esther contained here in these Sammy Cahn lyrics after all?

Granted, the book of Esther does not condone swingin' machismo - no roaring lions looking to score. King Xerxes, whose carousing & bravado led to unfair treatment of his first wife and rash promises to his assistant, is not the hero of the Purim story.  Nor does the Bible condemn being meek or lamb-like across the board.  Rather than getting you "cut out" or "shut out," these qualities are your ticket in to God's presence.

However, there is a "doomsday morn" in Esther's story, and in light of this impending destruction she is advised by her uncle not to wait, not to do nothing, but instead to blow her proverbial horn.  To reveal her true identity to King Xerxes while there was still time.  To sound her "A" and exercise her position of power. Because "who knows but that [she had] come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

So there you have it - a call to action, a call to boldery, a call to blow your horn when the time comes.  A tall order in a short megillah, a catchy song by Sammy Cahn, and something to celebrate.

Happy Purim, chums!

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