Purim is related by name to Yom Kippur. The day of solemn atonement and prayer is called Yom Kippurim, which can be read as The Day That is Like Purim. What can be the possible connection between these two days? Yom Kippur is a day of fasting; Purim is a day of feasting. Yom Kippur is a day of quiet reflection; Purim is a day of communal celebration. Yom Kippur is a day to dress in white; Purim is a day to dress up. How are they connected?
Yom Kippur is all about serving God and drawing close to Him through repentance and prayer. Purim is also a day to draw close to God. However instead of using serious prayer, on Purim we connect with God through joy, through eating and drinking, through a festive meal and a removing of the outer layers of our persona.
Both are ways to draw close to God. We can sanctify Yom Kippur by withdrawing from the world, and we can elevate Purim by being happy and rejoicing in an appropriate manner.
The two days are two sides of the same coin, Yom Kippur is the day that is like Purim.
Here we notice an interesting fact. When comparing two things we hold up the more significant, the more important and say that the other is like this. The younger brother is said to be like his older brother. The festivals are like Shabbat. The minor is compared to the major.
If so, then how come Yom Kippur is compared to Purim, the day like Purim. Surely it should be the other way round, that Purim has certain aspects that are similar to Yom Kippur.
There is a deep message here. Purim is, on some level, greater than even Yom Kippur itself.
It is relatively easy to be holy when we are detached and removed from the world. On Yom Kippur we spend the entire day in the synagogue and devote the time to thinking about God. Of course we end the day feeling elevated and special.
However, it is a much greater challenge to sanctify life when we are right in the middle of it. If we can still draw close to God on a day that we eat and drink and make merry, then we really draw close to Him.
One way to be holy is to separate, a higher form of sanctity is that which forces us to elevate the everyday world around us. This is the message of Purim, and therefore it is greater than Yom Kippur.
Purim is a day where we enter life and sanctify the world from the inside. We discover holiness that comes from within and shines outwards. Sanctity can be discovered everywhere if we know how to look deep enough and long enough.
The events of Purim and the entire book of Esther took place outside of Israel. In addition, God’s name is absent from the Megillah, the only book of the entire Tanach not to contain His holy name. The message here is the same. Purim is a time to discover sanctity in places where we would assume that no sanctity can be found. Even far away in Shushan, even in an era when God hides His face from us, we have to strive to reveal the sanctity in the world and celebrate holy days.
Read more about Purim and the other festivals in Rabbi Weitzman’s latest book, “In Those Days, At This Time”, essays on the festivals based on the philosophy of Rav Kook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org