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Purim to Passover

03/21/2019 12:40:40 PM

Mar21

A joyous Purim to all my friends who celebrate! As the holiday draws to a close, I'm reminded that our sages teach (TB Pesachim 6a) that we must begin teaching the laws of Passover 30 days before the holiday (to get your start, see our Passover guide at https://www.bnaitorah.org/passover). It makes sense to start early. Passover requires a lot of preparation. Kroger is even more pious than our sages and has been preparing for Passover for weeks now! However, the hidden implication of this statement is that our preparations for Passover begin today, on Purim. That would seem not to make a lot of sense. It is certainly ironic that we are given every kind of junk food in the world as “Mishloach Manot” and have only 29 days to eliminate it before Passover. Moreover, Purim is the silliest holiday on the Jewish calendar. It seems like a poor time to be learning the detailed laws of the most complicated festival. In fact, as we pivot from Purim to Passover, we realize that they are two sides of the same coin.

There are similarities- both holidays are associated with feasting, and with making sure that those who are less fortunate are tended to, but those two ideas are so basic to Judaism that they could describe almost any holiday. Passover and Purim are even both associated with drinking, though on Passover we stop at four cups of wine!

There are, however, important differences: Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is the one where God’s role is most visible. God overrules the laws of nature to smite the Egyptians with plagues, and drowns their armies in the sea. The Israelite role is limited primarily to complaining and smearing the blood on the doorposts. In contrast, in the Purim story, God’s miracles are at their most hidden. The story unfolds not through signs and wonders, but through politics, lobbying, and maneuvering. The Jewish people must fight their own battles, slaying their enemies with their own hands.

Purim and Passover are both associated with joy. Purim is the cathartic joy, full of adrenaline, at having suffered a narrow escape, heart still pounding. Passover is the more thoughtful joy of gratitude tempered with time. Furthermore, Passover ends with a change of scenery- a dangerous foreign land in the rear view mirror, a promised land in sight ahead. Purim ends with the Jews still in diaspora, just a bit more secure in the same tenuous foreign land.

Our relationship with God often looks more like that of Purim than like that of Passover. If we see God, it is in subtle coincidences and whispers, not awesome plagues and splitting seas. The process, though, of transitioning from Purim for Passover, reminds us that we can seek out those miracles. Our life is full of redemptions in place, but we can still await those moments that truly change our lives and our fates.

I hope that you enjoy the rest of Purim, and look forward to beginning the journey to Exodus together!

Thu, November 14 2019 16 Cheshvan 5780