Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 27 February 2010 / 12 Adar I 5770

Like Purim

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Jake
Dear Rabbi,

I seem to recall that Purim is connected in some way to another holiday, maybe like Yom Kipur? Is that possible? If so, how? Sorry for the ignorance but I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he said that a holiday from the Torah like Yom Kipur can’t be compared to a holiday from a later, non-Torah period. Please help clarify this for us.

Dear Jake,

There is in fact a teaching in our sources relating Purim to Yom Kipurim. The idea is based on the actual wording of the names for the holidays: namely, Yom Kipurim is understood to mean that that day is like Purim – “K’Purim”, which in Hebrew means “like Purim”. If Yom Kipurim is like Purim, the implication is that Purim is in some way even greater than the Day of Atonement. How so?

On Yom Kipurim, by refraining from bodily pleasures, the Jewish People elevate themselves and attain atonement for transgressions of the body. Purim achieves the same thing through feasting and rejoicing. The latter is viewed as being greater since it’s easier to gain spiritual purity and elevation through abstaining from physicality, while attaining holiness through pleasure requires a much greater degree of striving and effort.

In fact, we see this reflected in the following inverse relationship between Yom Kipurim and Purim: Regarding Yom Kipurim, we partake of food and drink on the eve of the fast and then refrain from eating and drinking during the holiday, as if to show that while we may have previously indulged in mundane pleasures, we now repent and purify ourselves of that indulgence. However, regarding Purim, the order is reversed. We first refrain from food and drink on the Fast of Esther and then feast during Purim as if to show that while we may have indulged in forbidden feasting, we now elevate our feasting to the service of G-d.

Interestingly, Purim is compared not only to Yom Kipurim but also to the other holidays as well. Rabbis of previous times have noted the following allusions: Purim is like Pesach in that on both occasions the Jews were delivered from bondage to freedom. Purim is like Shavuot in that the Jews reaffirmed their acceptance and commitment to the Torah. Purim is like Rosh Hashanah in that the existence of the Jewish People hung in the balance as a result of the King’s decree. Purim is like Yom Kipur in that the Jews were expiated of their sins. Finally, Purim is like Succot whose commemoration of the protective Divine Clouds of Glory parallels G-d’s providential protection of the Jews against their enemies in Persia.

Perhaps according to this, we can better understand the enigmatic teaching of our Sages that, “All festivals will one day cease, but the days of Purim will never cease” (Yalkut Mishlei 944). Since Purim contains within it the major themes and influences of all the other holidays, the influence of Purim is a concentrated culmination of them all. Once the final redemption occurs, all the festivals of the Torah will be observed through their portended progeny – Purim.

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