What do Yom Kippur and Purim have in common?

It's not just a Purim riddle; below are some sources to help you learn about the hidden connections between these two holidays.

Yom HaKippurim could be loosely translated as a day that is "like Purim." Not only do the names sound the same (though they don't share the same meaning), but the Midrash says that these are the only two holidays that will be celebrated forever:

...כל המועדים עתידים בטלים, וימי הפורים אינם בטלים לעולם, שנאמר (אסתר ט כח): "וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים". אמר רבי אלעזר: אף יום הכיפורים אינו בטל לעולם, שנאמר (ויקרא טז לד): "והיתה זאת לכם לחוקת עולם לכפר על בני ישראל מכל חטאתם אחת בשנה"...

...All of the holidays are to be nullified in the future but the days of Purim will not be nullified, as it is stated (Esther 9:28), 'And these days of Purim will not be rescinded from the Jews.'" Rabbi Elazar said, "Also Yom Kippur will forever not be nullified, as it is stated, 'And it will be to you for an everlasting statute to atone for the Children of Israel from all of their sins once a year.'"

In other words, the Midrash imagines a time in a future redeemed world when the rest of the holidays will no longer be observed, but each of these holidays has a verse in the Tanakh that indicates that it will last forever.

What connects these two holidays? Here are two ideas:

#1: The Game of Chance

Famously, Purim takes its name from the lots cast by Haman to decide when to exterminate the Jewish people:

(ז) בַּחֹ֤דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ נִיסָ֔ן בִּשְׁנַת֙ שְׁתֵּ֣ים עֶשְׂרֵ֔ה לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֑וֹשׁ הִפִּ֣יל פּוּר֩ ה֨וּא הַגּוֹרָ֜ל לִפְנֵ֣י הָמָ֗ן מִיּ֧וֹם ׀ לְי֛וֹם וּמֵחֹ֛דֶשׁ לְחֹ֥דֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֖ר הוּא־חֹ֥דֶשׁ אֲדָֽר׃ (ס)
(7) In the first month, that is, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, pur—which means “the lot”—was cast before Haman concerning every day and every month, [until it fell on] the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar.
(כו) עַל־כֵּ֡ן קָֽרְאוּ֩ לַיָּמִ֨ים הָאֵ֤לֶּה פוּרִים֙ עַל־שֵׁ֣ם הַפּ֔וּר עַל־כֵּ֕ן עַל־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הָאִגֶּ֣רֶת הַזֹּ֑את וּמָֽה־רָא֣וּ עַל־כָּ֔כָה וּמָ֥ה הִגִּ֖יעַ אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃
(26) For that reason these days were named Purim, after pur. In view, then, of all the instructions in the said letter and of what they had experienced in that matter and what had befallen them,

Why do you think it is important to know how Haman selected the exact date? Why name the holiday after the lots?

When it comes to Yom Kippur, the role of chance is less well known, but is central in the Torah's account of the day:

וְנָתַ֧ן אַהֲרֹ֛ן עַל־שְׁנֵ֥י הַשְּׂעִירִ֖ם גּוֹרָל֑וֹת גּוֹרָ֤ל אֶחָד֙ לַיהוָ֔ה וְגוֹרָ֥ל אֶחָ֖ד לַעֲזָאזֵֽל׃ וְהִקְרִ֤יב אַהֲרֹן֙ אֶת־הַשָּׂעִ֔יר אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָלָ֥ה עָלָ֛יו הַגּוֹרָ֖ל לַיהוָ֑ה וְעָשָׂ֖הוּ חַטָּֽאת׃ וְהַשָּׂעִ֗יר אֲשֶׁר֩ עָלָ֨ה עָלָ֤יו הַגּוֹרָל֙ לַעֲזָאזֵ֔ל יָֽעֳמַד־חַ֛י לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה לְכַפֵּ֣ר עָלָ֑יו לְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֹת֛וֹ לַעֲזָאזֵ֖ל הַמִּדְבָּֽרָה׃
and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.

This Temple-based "scapegoat" ritual hasn't been practiced in many years, but according to the Torah, the goat to be sacrificed as a sin offering is chosen by drawing lots, and the other goat is sent off "for Azazel," which seems to be a mysterious atonement ritual.

It seems strange to require that lots be cast for this process. Why not just pick different animals for different roles? Why might the element of chance be an important part of the Yom Kippur ritual?

#2: A Second Shot at Torah


Megillat Esther describes the institution of the holiday of Purim as a practice that the Jewish people eagerly accepted upon themselves in recognition of the amazing miracle they had just witnessed.

(כז) קִיְּמ֣וּ וקבל [וְקִבְּל֣וּ] הַיְּהוּדִים֩ ׀ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ם ׀ וְעַל־זַרְעָ֜ם וְעַ֨ל כָּל־הַנִּלְוִ֤ים עֲלֵיהֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א יַעֲב֔וֹר לִהְי֣וֹת עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֣ת שְׁנֵ֤י הַיָּמִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה כִּכְתָבָ֖ם וְכִזְמַנָּ֑ם בְּכָל־שָׁנָ֖ה וְשָׁנָֽה׃

(27) the Jews undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants, and all who might join them, to observe these two days in the manner prescribed and at the proper time each year.

When the rabbis of the Talmud read the end of the Purim story, they see a deeper significance in these words. In their reading, what the Jews "undertook" in this moment was nothing less than observance of all of the laws of the Torah. Here's their version:

אמר רבא...הדור קבלוה בימי אחשורוש דכתיב קימו וקבלו היהודים קיימו מה שקיבלו כבר

Rava said: ...they again accepted it willingly in the time of Ahasuerus, as it is written: “The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them” (Esther 9:27), and he taught: The Jews ordained what they had already taken upon themselves through coercion at Sinai.

The experience of receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai was a terrifying one, and the rabbis argue that it might have felt like a coercive experience for those who were present. Can a person freely choose whether or not to accept a code of law when it is offered amid thunder and lightning and loud noises? Purim, on the other hand, was a time of relief and joy. It was at that moment, say the rabbis, that the Jews experienced a second chance to accept the Torah - this time, freely and gladly.

How might the idea that Purim marks the real acceptance of the Torah change our experience of this holiday?

For a second look at a second chance at Torah, let's talk about Yom Kippur. Famously, tablets containing the ten commandments were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, who promptly smashed them when confronted with the sight of his people worshipping the Golden Calf. Fast forward a few chapters, and God is ready to forgive the People of Israel and give the Torah again.

(ד) וַיִּפְסֹ֡ל שְׁנֵֽי־לֻחֹ֨ת אֲבָנִ֜ים כָּרִאשֹׁנִ֗ים וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם מֹשֶׁ֤ה בַבֹּ֙קֶר֙ וַיַּ֙עַל֙ אֶל־הַ֣ר סִינַ֔י כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה אֹת֑וֹ וַיִּקַּ֣ח בְּיָד֔וֹ שְׁנֵ֖י לֻחֹ֥ת אֲבָנִֽים׃
(4) So Moses carved two tablets of stone, like the first, and early in the morning he went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, taking the two stone tablets with him.

According to the Midrash, this second chance at Torah occurred on Yom Kippur.

ירד בי' בתשרי והוא היה יום הכיפורים, ובישרם שנתרצה לפני המקום, שנאמר וסלחת לעוננו ולחטאתנו ונחלתנו (שמות לד ט), לפיכך נתקיים יום חוק וזכרון לדורות, שנאמר והיתה זאת לכם לחקת עולם (ויקרא טז לד)...

He (Moses) came down from the mountain on the 10th of Tishre, which was Yom Kippur, and announced to them that they had found favor before God, as it says "Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own!” (Exodus 34:9) Therefore it was established as a fixed day and a remembrance for the generations, as it says "This shall be to you a law for all time: to make atonement for the Israelites for all their sins once a year..." (Leviticus 16:34)

This moment of atonement, when a bad decision in the past was left behind and a new path forward made clear, set the precedent for what Yom Kippur is all about.

How might this understanding of Yom Kippur influence our experience of the holiday?

Why might it matter that both Purim and Yom Kippur celebrate a second chance at accepting the Torah?

Think of a time when you had a second chance to make something right. How was it different from the first time? What did you learn in the process?