Why Kabbalah states that Yom Kippurim is a day like Purim
Of all the Jewish holidays on the calendar, perhaps the best known and the most widely observed is the great and holy day of Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement. It is a time that synagogue sanctuaries are teeming with prayer, song and meaning. It is the one day on the calendar that there is almost no vehicle to be found driving on Israeli highways. It is referred to in the Torah as Shabbat Shabbaton— The Sabbath of all Sabbaths.
The Torah, the Ark, the clergy and the congregants are all dressed in their finest white garments representing purity. The Torah and Talmud mandate no eating, drinking, anointing, washing, intimacy or leather footwear due to the sanctity of the day. It is the day of Final Judgment when in heaven it is decided who will live, and who will die, who will prosper and who will flounder, and who will be afflicted and who will experience serenity….No wonder the people of Israel take Yom Kippur so seriously!
It is therefore mysterious and enigmatic why the Kabbalistic Sages wrote that Yom Kippur is comparable to the holiday of Purim. In fact, the formal name of Yom Kippur is Yom HaKippurim— which literally means “A Day like Purim.” If I had to choose two days of the year that appear as polar opposites, I would have said Purim and Yom Kippur. Purim is celebrated with masks and flasks, parties and joy. Yom Kippur on the other hand is perceived as solitary, solemn and serious. How are they like one another at all?
The answer can be found in Mishnah Taanit 4:8, which states that unlike the popular perception, Yom Kippur is one of the two most joyous days of the year. It is joyous because it is the time we refresh, renew, achieve atonement and forgiveness and begin life anew with a fresh slate; what could be more joyous than that? Additionally, a central element of both holidays is the implementation of a Pur—a lottery.
On Purim, Haman utilizes a lottery to decide which month to orchestrate his assault on the Jews. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest draws lots to decide which goat will be dedicated to G-d and which goat will be cast aside (this is the origin of the term “scapegoat”). Finally, both Purim and Yom Kippur are extremely spiritual days in which we aim to achieve true closeness to G-d. On Purim we harness the physical blessings of the world; and on Yom Kippur we refrain from using the physical blessings and instead engage our spiritual selves, our souls to transcend our shortcomings and literally reinvent ourselves. Now that we view Yom Kippur in a different light, it is evident that Yom Kippurim is indeed like the holiday of Purim.
There still exists a phenomenon in the Jewish world called 3X A Year Attendees—our brothers and sisters who show up religiously to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and are hard to find in the pews the rest of the year. I once heard a shrewd Jew remark that if it was up to him he would proclaim that all the Jews that want to attend synagogue two holidays a year should do so on Purim and Simchat Torah and not on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Why? Because everyone knows that Judaism is rich in wisdom and meaning; but not everyone knows that Judaism is also filled with joy and fulfillment.
This year, let’s pledge to seek out the JOY in our Judaism through Torah study and experiences. There is no shortage of wonderful and accessible authentic places in and around Cherry Hill to engage our glorious heritage and connect better to the truth of our Torah. If I could help assist you in finding the right program for you, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s wishing you and yours a year of life, health and fulfillment. May it be a year of peace, blessings and joy for the People of Israel and all mankind.