The Medrash (Mishlei 9:2) states “All holidays will in the future be annulled, yet the days of Purim will never be annulled.” While the meaning of this passage shouldn’t be accepted at face value, it clearly indicates that Purim has certain unique attributes.
It is explained in the name of the Ariz”al what makes Purim unique. Purim celebrates our deliverance from the hands of those who oppressed us, those who plotted our destruction. This is a theme seen in the celebration of Pesach, as well. On Pesach, we celebrate our exile from Egypt, from those who enslaved and persecuted us. Both Purim and Pesach share the theme of salvation and deliverance to freedom.
On Shavu’os, the next holiday in chronological order, we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the nation of Israel. This theme is found in Purim in well. The Talmud states (Shabbos 88a) “Said Raba . . . they re-accepted it in the days of Achashverosh, for it is written, [the Jews] confirmed, and took upon them,’ they confirmed what they had accepted long before.” The commentator Rashi explains that in the days of the Purim story, the nation of Israel re-accepted the Torah out of love of G-d for the miracle that He performed for the nation. Hence, Purim is a celebration of the Torah as well as a celebration of salvation and deliverance.
Rosh HaShana is the holiday on which we are judged for the coming year. Yom Kippur is the day on which we fast and pray, begging for forgiveness for the misdeeds we have committed against G-d, so that we will be sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Purim contains elements of both of these holidays. In the time of the story of Purim, the entire nation was in peril. The nation was guilty of committing acts against G-d. We were to be judged. Because of the fasting, the communal prayers for forgiveness, and the unity exhibited by the nation, the nation of Israel was judged for life, and Haman was judged for death. Purim, therefore, serves as a reminder of how we are supposed to act in our relationship with G-d, and how He acts with us with mercy.
The Sukkah, according to one opinion, represents the Ananei HaKavod, the Clouds of Glory. These clouds were provided to the nation of Israel by G-d. They sheltered the nation on all sides from the elements, and protected the nation from harm. This enveloping of the nation was symbolic of G-d’s love for the people, as if G-d literally took the nation under His wings and held them close to Him out of love. During the time of the story of Purim, the nation of Israel clearly saw that G-d loved them. They experienced the protection of G-d first hand when they were allowed to not only defend themselves but to go on the offensive against their enemies. This manifestation of heavenly protection seen on Purim is the same as that which the holiday of Sukkos commemorates.
On Purim, we tend to focus on those themes which are unique to the day. We concentrate on the unbridled happiness, the feasting and gift giving which are part and parcel of the Purim celebration. We have to step back and look at Purim with a broader perspective, to appreciate all that we are truly celebrating.
A “Freilichin Purim” to all!
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.