Purim & Pesach
Today being the day of …
1) Start of Shabbat
2) Jewish New Year/Nissan 1
4) solar eclipse
5) last Plutonian alignment
6) spring equinox, and
7) halfway point between Purim and Pesach
… SEVEN events – I thought that it would be beneficial to go into more detail about number seven, specifically. A few days ago, I bookmarked one of THE most interesting articles I have read in a very long time. And that means naturally I wanted to share it. I’ve highlighted and marked it, to try to help, a little… but you won’t believe this!
The year 5775 is sandwiched between two leap years, each of which contains an extra month of Adar. In those leap years, and despite the fact that most authorities maintain that the “real” Adar is the first one, the holiday of Purim always falls in the second Adar, so that even in a leap year Purim and Pesach are separated by a month [new moon to new moon period].
Why do we always celebrate Purim in such close proximity to Pesach? Why must they always be linked in time? … it is “preferable to juxtapose one redemption to the other redemption.” …In other words, the two redemptions – the [salvation] of the Jewish people from Egypt and the salvation of the Jewish people from the genocidal designs of Haman in the story of Purim – are naturally related and require commemoration within the same period of time.
On the surface, though, the two redemptions could not be more dissimilar. Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition. Pesach commemorates the establishment of the Jewish people through deliverance from Egyptian bondage at the very beginning of the biblical narrative, forty years before we entered and conquered the land of Israel; the story of Purim comes at the very end of the biblical era while we were ensconced in exile between the eras of the two Batei Mikdash. In the Jewish calendar, Pesach falls in the very first month of Nissan; Purim is celebrated in the very last month of the year.
And there is this most critical distinction between the two holidays: during the redemption of Pesach, the liberation from the slavery of Egypt, the Jewish people were completely passive. Miracles abounded and the Hand of Hashem was open and revealed to all. The few acts that we did – such as the designation and slaughter of the Korban Pesach – were prerequisites for redemption in the sense that they qualified those offering the sacrifice as members of the holy nation about to be redeemed. We departed “in haste,” objects of the national destiny that Hashem fashioned for us, beneficiaries of His “mighty Hand and outstretched Arm.”
By contrast, the redemption of Purim was almost the antithesis of that of Pesach. The Jews of Persia, led by Mordechai and Esther, took control of their own destiny. The miracles that took place were subtle and concealed, hidden within the natural order of politics and statecraft. The protagonists of the salvation utilized their wisdom, ingenuity, and knowledge of human nature in order to manipulate Haman to his death by execution and King Achashveirosh to reverse – or at least revise – his decree of extermination against the people of Israel. When the day of the decree arrived – Adar 13 – the Jewish people, downtrodden in a persistent exile that seemed like it would never end, rose up in their righteous might to subdue and vanquish their enemies. It was a role reversal, not only from the forced limitations of exile but especially from the passivity of Pesach…
The stories of these redemptions could not be more different. Why, then, did our sages underscore that the celebrations of both festivals had to be contiguous in time?
The people of Israel in Egypt …were infants who required the nurturing of a loving Parent. …we were barely distinguishable from the pagan nations with whom (and to whom) we were enslaved. The sojourn in the wilderness reinforced this sense of helplessness and vulnerability. We relied on Hashem directly for our food and water, for our protection from the hostile elements that surrounded us, both human and natural. We survived only by virtue of Hashem’s miracles.
When we entered the land of Israel, the era of open miracles began to recede, and slowly – at times hesitantly and painfully – we took control of our own destiny. We had to sow, plant, reap, harvest, build and develop, and defend the land against an endless series of would-be invaders. The scales of hishtadlut (individual or national striving) tilted on the side of our own efforts, bolstered by our faith in Hashem and our fidelity to His law. ...Nevertheless, the age of open miracles of the Egyptian experience, coupled with the passivity of that redemption, was a distant memory – not a practical guide for modern life but a catalyst for self-determination and independence.
The terrible blow of the churban [exile], the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash [temple], stunned the Jewish people. They were hastily turned into helpless refugees, humbled, degraded, persecuted, and homeless. And rather than arouse themselves, seek to eliminate the exile, and return home in accordance with the revealed prophecies, they became complacent and soon embedded themselves in the Babylonian and then Persian exiles. The story of Purim was a wake-up call that exile is meant as a punishment – a temporary punishment – and that Hashem’s plans for His people find their fulfillment only in the land of Israel.
But something else was required to extricate ourselves from the Persian morass and threat of extermination from a mad Persian dictator (strange how things never change): a desire to seize our destiny and take the initiative in bringing about the salvation. …They chose not to see – even this never changes – that the crisis was orchestrated by Hashem in order to elicit from His people repentance, prayer, and increased Torah observance. What was unique about this episode in Jewish history was that, as the sages put it, the arousal came from below.
As such, it would be fair to say that Pesach and Purim reflect two different models of salvation that are possible – the redemption that comes from Above in which our participation is negligible, and the redemption that comes from below, from our own resourcefulness, without which redemption would not come, or, at least, would come in a different way according to Hashem’s will. Thus, when the season of redemption comes upon us every spring, we have before us these two archetypes of redemption.
…In effect, the progression in the Jewish calendar from Pesach to Purim mirrors the progression in our historical development. We began as dependents of Hashem, His first-born and special creation, and we were sustained directly from His hand. But in the land of Israel and thenceforth we became responsible for our own destiny. That does not mean, chas v’shalom, that Hashem is now uninvolved; it does mean that His miracles are hidden and His Providence more subtle.
…This still begs the question: if Jewish history is a progression from the redemptive modality of Pesach to that of Purim, then why must “[one] redemption be juxtaposed to the [other] redemption”? It should be enough to celebrate Purim, the redemption of our time!
The answer is that, indeed, in the future redemption, … the problems of the world will be so enormous and the depth of the brutality and evil so extraordinary that divine intervention will be necessary. “As in the days when you left Egypt, I will show you wonders” (Michah 7:15). The era of open miracles will again dawn, just like Pesach…
aNNa’S NoTeS: Although we are not physically Israel, this is also illustrative of our spiritual lives. We start out milk-fed, completely dependent on Ha’Shem for everything. As we grow in the Lord, we take responsibility for ourselves more, and we are to seek our daily bread, fight the fight, run the race, etc. We are to plant, to harvest, to grow. This is not to say that Ha’Shem is no longer needed – He is our strength, He is our Source of all. Mercy, strength, knowledge, faith, and more. But we grow, and as a result are more involved in our own spiritual destiny. So from Purim to Pesach, we see the process – and it happens from new moon to new moon, in one complete cycle. Isn’t that amazing?! The subtle nuances of everything pointing to the same Truth? I love it!