Purim allows us to fully and truly celebrate the Jewish belief that we can use everything in this world, holy or mundane, in the service of God.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
Judaism maintains that one can serve God with everything the world has to offer. According to Judaism, the physical and the spiritual can and should combine in the service of God. Even our basic human desires can be used for godliness.
Not all religions agree. Catholicism, for example, believes that the spiritual and the physical should not be mixed. This is largely why Catholic clergymen do not marry. They believe that the desire for intimacy, although legitimate, is a less-than-ideal lifestyle, hence their celibacy.
In Judaism, the reverse is true, and there is perhaps no better holiday than Purim to prove it. One of the main mitzvot (commandments) of Purim is to eat and drink; in others words, indulge in the physical. Yes, it is a mitzva to do so! By indulging in food and drink, we are serving God at the highest levels!
Sure, one can fill his or her belly to satisfy gastronomic desires only – or one can choose to get the double advantage of filling up also for the sake of serving God! The best of both worlds! One can get high on Purim for the love of alcohol or get high on Purim for the love of alcohol AND for the love of God!
Indeed, the name “Purim” sounds like the holiday of “Yom Kippur.” In fact, the true name of Yom Kippur is “Yom Hakippurim,” which is very reminiscent of Purim. “Yom Hakippurim” in Hebrew actually means “the day that is like Purim”! This teaches us that sometimes we serve God by fasting and at other times – on an equal level – by feasting.
This is certainly one of the major lessons of Purim. While we certainly respect everyone’s religious beliefs and ways of serving God, Purim allows us to fully and truly celebrate the Jewish belief that we can use everything in this world, holy or mundane, in the service of God.