Like Purim? By Dov Rossman


The Ari z”l states that Purim and Yom Kippur are are similar.  He shows this through the names of the holidays.  While Yom HaKippurim is normally translated as Day of Atonements, it can also be pronounced Yom Ha-Kippurim, a day like Purim.  This similarity between the two holidays is difficult to understand; on the surface, it seems like these are possibly the most dissimilar days on the Jewish calendar!  Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, self-examination, and seriousness, while Purim is a day of eating, drinking, and happiness.  How could these holidays be considered so similar?

Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik points out the importance of the idea of lots on these holidays.  In the center of the Yom Kippur service in the Beit Hamikdash was the ceremony of the two goats.  One goat was given to Hashem as a Korban, LaHashem, and its blood would be sprinkled within the Kodesh HaKodashim, and the other goat would be sent off of a cliff, La’Azazeil.  Who was the one to verify which goat would be sent LaHashem and which would be sent La’Azazeil? The Kohen Gadol would do so by way of a lot.

The plot of the story of Purim, literally meaning the holiday of lots, revolves around the lot through which Haman determined the date on which he would carry out his evil plans to annihilate the Jewish people.

Rabbi Menachem Genack states that what most people did not realize during the time in which these events took place was that Hashem was guiding all of these incidents with a hidden hand.  Hashem’s subtle coordination of the events is expressed in the Megillah in that the name of Hashem is not written even once in the entire Megillat Esther; it is the only book in the entire Tanach to not include Hashem’s name.

However, our Mesorah teaches us that the commonly used word in the Megillah, Hamelech, does not only refer to king Achashverosh, but also refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Who has controlled all of the world events with His hidden hand throughout history.  This differs greatly from the worldview of Amalek, and its descendant Haman.  They believed in all of their evil and wickedness that God does not control anything, and that the fate of the world is based on pure chance.

This is the true meaning of Purim.  Yom Kippur confronts our daily troubles and fears in the world, no matter how hard they are and no matter how much they might challenge out faith in Hashem.  As Jewish people, we trust Hashem in all His omniscience and omnipotence to control the world.

Hence, Purim and Yom HaKippurim stress the same primary spiritual idea: even though the world might sometimes seem to be following mere lot or chance, we need to recognize that everything is being guided by Hashem, Who is all-knowing.  This idea is nurtured through the learning of Torah, which is the outline of the world and a testimony to Hashem’s constant concern for Bnei Yisrael and all of humanity.

Rabbi Genack continues to comment on how interesting it is that Yom HaKippurim and Purim are both days that commemorate the giving of the Torah.  On Yom HaKippurim, the second Luchot were given to B’nei Yisrael after Moshe Rabeinu shattered the first pair.  Our Rabbis (Shabbat 88a) tell us that it was only on Purim that the Jewish people really accepted the Torah, because at Har Sinai, the Jewish people were intimidated to accept the Torah when Hashem lifted Har Sinai above their heads and said they would die if they did not accept the Torah.  It is only through the observance of the Torah that we can face the chaos and tragedies in our daily lives and realize that they are from Hashem for the greater good, even if we as human beings cannot understand the way that Hashem works.

Haman’s Downfall by Shlomo Tanenbaum

The Complete Teshuva by Rabbi Ezra Wiener