Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, when the Jewish people abstain from physical pleasure. Purim is a day of celebration and joy. So which is more holy?
The festive holiday of Purim commemorates the Hitler-like scheme of the evil Haman, who planned to exterminate the Jewish people. To make a long story short, after Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai discovered Haman’s evil plan to kill the Jews and convinced King Achashverosh to rescind the decree, the Jews were saved. In other words, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” For more information on the Purim story, be sure to read the book of Esther, which can be found towards the back of your nearest Bible.
Have you ever noticed that there is another holiday on the Jewish calendar that seems to sound like “Purim”? The Torah calls the Day of Atonement, “Yom Hakippurim,” which can be translated as “A day that is like Purim.” Indeed, many of the mystically inclined sages throughout the generations have taught us that the holiday of Purim is so holy that even Yom Kippur – the day we suppose to be the absolute holiest day of the year – is only “like Purim,” but not as holy. Wow!
Why is Purim Ranked Above Yom Kippur?
One explanation is that Purim and Yom Kippur are exact opposites. Purim is the day or parties, joy, and, of course, food. Yom Kippur is solemn, serious, and a day of fasting. Nevertheless, even though they are opposites, they both allow us to achieve the same thing and reach the same goal: To get close to God. Just as we achieve atonement and get close to God through fasting, reflection, and prayer on Yom Kippur, so, too, on Purim we achieve the exact same thing through feasting and celebration. Yes, two different holidays, two different recipes, but one identical goal.
It’s easy to understand that through fasting and prayer one can come close to God. But through feasting? The answer is that a person’s attitude and intention is what makes all the difference. If a person is feasting and celebrating with the sole intention of giving thanks and praise to God for saving us from the evil Haman, then that feasting and celebration is as beloved before God as fasting and praying. Indeed, with these intentions, the Purim meal becomes sanctified. Just as we sanctify Yom Kippur through fasting and prayer, Purim is sanctified through feasting and celebrations, not to mention the Purim mitzvot (good deeds) of giving gifts to our friends (and even our enemies!) and distributing charity to the poor. Our Rabbis teach us that the ability to connect with God via physical activities is even greater than when one withdraws from the physical world. In this way, Purim is said to be even greater than the holy, spiritual day of Yom Kippur.
In this way, Judaism is different than many other religions. Many others teach that the only way to come close to God is through suffering, pain, and other ascetic practices. Not Judaism. Although we believe that asceticism has its place, we strongly believe that focusing exclusively on the spiritual without an emphasis on the material will get you nowhere. As with everything in life, balance is the key. Balance in our service to God includes getting close to him in more “enjoyable” ways, as well.
Virtually half a year apart from one another, we invoke the physical on Purim, while on Yom Kippur we invoke the spiritual. They are two halves of a whole. Indeed, there is even a teaching that after the Messiah comes, all the holidays will be nullified, except for Purim and Yom Kippur, which will continue to be observed even in the Messianic era. Why? Because Purim and Yom Kippur teach us that there are two different, but equally important, ways in which mankind becomes close to God — both of which are essential.
By: United with Israel Staff
Happy Purim from Israel! Chag Sameach!