Thursday, March 17, 2022

Purim 5782 – A Theory Connecting Purim to Yom ha’Kipurim Which is NOT Based on Specious Linguistics – Part 2 (An Answer)

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Purim 5782 – A Theory Connecting Purim to Yom ha’Kipurim Which is NOT Based on Specious Linguistics – Part 2 (An Answer)

The haftarah of Yom ha’Kippurim opens with the pasuk cited by the Rambam in Hilchos Megilah 2:17. The navi then goes on to answer the question asked of Hashem by the Jews at that time: “Why did we fast and You did not see? Why did we afflict our souls and You did not know?” (ibid. 58:3). The navi answers:

Can such be the fast I choose: a day when man merely afflicts himself? Can it be merely bowing one’s head like a bulrush and spreading sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast and a day of favor to Hashem? Surely, this is the fast I choose: to break open the shackles of wickedness, to undo the bonds of injustice, and to let the oppressed go free, and annul all perversion. Surely you should break your bread for the hungry, and bring the moaning poor [to your] home; when you see a naked person, clothe him; and do not hide yourself from your kin. Then your light will burst out like the dawn and your healing will speedily sprout; your righteous deed will precede you and the glory of Hashem will gather you in. Then you will call and Hashem will respond; you will cry out and He will say, “Here I am!” If you remove from your midst perversion, finger-pointing, and evil speech, and offer your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then your light will shine in the darkness, and your deepest gloom will be like the noon. (ibid. 58:3-10)

The message is clear: no matter how devoutly we fast and cry out in prayer, Hashem will not respond until we repair our relationships with our fellow human beings. One can only enter the realm of bein adam l’Makom (between man and God) through the gate of bein adam l’chaveiro (between man and his fellow man).

This theme is certainly appropriate to Yom ha’Kippurim: a day on which we appeal to Hashem to accept our prayers, our fasting, and our teshuvah. But what does this have to do with Purim? According to the Rambam: everything! In his introduction to the Mishneh Torah, at the end of the list of mitzvos, Rambam explains the central theme of Purim and identifies its basis in the Torah itself:

… the Prophets, along with Beis Din, instituted and commanded us in the reading of the Megilah in its proper time in order to recall the praises of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu and the salvations He did for us, that He was near to our salvation, in order to bless Him and to praise Him, and in order to make known to the coming generations that that which was stated in the Torah is true, as it is stated, "For which is a great nation that has a God Who is close to it, as is Hashem, our God, whenever we call to Him?" (Devarim 4:7).

Purim memorializes the most dramatic instance in history of Hashem’s promise to be “a God Who is close to [us] … whenever we call to Him.” The Megilah clearly states that the Jews fasted at the behest of Esther in response to the threat of Haman. We can infer that this fasting was accompanied by prayer and teshuvah as well. But the narrative in the Megilah alone might lead us to make a grave error, namely, to assume that fasting and prayer are enough to warrant a response from Hashem. But they are not enough, as Yeshayahu and all the other neviim have reminded us throughout the ages.

This, I submit, is the thematic connection between Purim and Yom ha’Kippurim. Both days share the theme of calling out to Hashem in hopes that He will answer us. Both, therefore, are in need of the reminder that Hashem only responds to those who “walk in His ways” (Devarim 11:22), “to bring life to the spirit of the lowly and to bring life to the heart of the oppressed” (Yeshaya 57:15). Perhaps this is why the mitzvos of mishloach manos and matanos la’evyonim were instituted: to remind us, on a day commemorating Hashem’s response to our outcry, that we will only merit such a response if we promote love and peace between our fellow Jews and enact righteousness and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

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