Sunday, March 12, 2006

The similarity between Purim and Yom Kippur

The Zohar states that "Yom Hakippurim" can be read as "a day like Puirm," and the connection between the two holidays is elaborated in Chabad Chassidic philosphy. has a good essay which presents these ideas in an accessible way. An excerpt:
On Yom Kippur we fast and pray, on Purim we party. Yet the Zohar sees the two days as intrinsically similar, going so far as to interpret the name Yom HaKippurim (as the Torah calls Yom Kippur) to mean that it is "a day like Purim" (yom k’purim)!

The casting of lots expresses the idea that one has passed beyond the realm of motive and reason. A lottery is resorted to when there is no reason or impetus to choose one option over the other, so that the matter must be surrendered to forces that are beyond one’s control and comprehension.

Therein lies the significance of the lots cast by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. After all is said and done, implied the lots, no man is worthy in the eyes of G-d. We all stand before Him with our faults and iniquities, and by all rational criteria, should be found lacking in His judgment. So we impel ourselves beyond the realm of nature and reason, beyond the pale of merit and fault. We disavow all the accouterments of physical identity--food and drink, earthly pleasures, and our very sense of reason and priority. We cast our lot with G-d, confident that He will respond in kind and relate to us in terms of our quintessential bond to Him rather than by the existential scales of pro and con.

Haman’s lot-casting was his attempt to exploit the supra-reality of the divine to an opposite end. The Jewish people, said Haman, might be the pursuers of G-d’s wisdom on earth and the implementors of His will, thus meriting His favor and protection. But surely G-d, in essence, is above it all--above our earthly reason and its notions of "virtue" and "deservedness," beyond such concepts as "good" or "evil." Ultimately, the divine will is as arbitrary as a roll of dice. Why not give it a shot? I might just catch a supernal caprice running in my direction.
Ayein sham.

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