Purim is perhaps one of the most enigmatic yet misconstrued days in the Jewish calendar. A festival of celebration of our nations salvation, as we stood on the brink of extermination at the hands of Haman and king achashvereush. Yet it is often misunderstood as a day of mere merriment and revelry when many lose control of themselves.
Remarkably one of the most fascinating insights concerning Purim is that its “twin” is Yom Kippur.
This seems baffling at first glance Yom Kippur is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar when we abstain from physical pleasures spending the day in fasting and in repentance. Purim on the other hand is a day of tremendous joy where there is a greater emphasis on physical enjoyment and pleasure reflected in the mitzvoth of the day which are centred around eating and drinking. Never could there be a greater contrast in the mode of the experience of the two days.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the two are mirror images of each other. Each of our festivals follow a divided format. Half of the festival consists of obligations to G-d (ie prayer etc and the other half is for our personal enjoyment.)
The Vilna Gaon writes “ Yom Kippur lacks this arrangement in that there is no half set aside for our personal enjoyment. On Yom Kippur we stand before G-d simulating angels, totally putting aside the fulfilment of our bodily pleasures. The activities of Purim are the opposite: Most of the day is devoted in some fashion to physical pleasure.
Rav Hutner develops this idea further Purim and Yom Kippur are mirror images of the other. Each provides the missing half that the other lacks. This is even indicated by their names: Yom Hakippurim is a Day “Ki- Purim similar to Purim”. Together, they constitute one complete festival reflecting the dual aspects of “ half that is for G-d and half that is for man”. In effect they are two halves of one whole. This whole, this unity represents a deep cry, a scream that rises from the Jewish soul-our inner most desire to carry out His will. But we find ourselves being prevented from doing so. Both reasons that prevent the Jewish people from serving G-d fully-the evil inclination and the subjugation of the Jewish people by foreign empires descending from Esau must be rectified. This is the point where Purim and Yom Kippur converge. The combination of these two festivals brings about the elimination of the two barriers.
Yom Kippur has the ability to remedy through abstinence to remedy the first cause of our transgressions: the power of evil as we stand before G-d shunning our physical needs indicating our focus on our spiritual dimension. On Purim the second force from preventing us serving Hashem, enslavement by foreign kingdoms is eliminated through our desire to demonstrate our steadfast will to serve Hashem through the physical world.
Through our enjoyment of the physical world Purim reveals the hidden potential desire of our people to carry out G-d’s Will.