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