Today is January 21, 2019 -

Our Continued Redemption

By Rabbi Steven Abraham

Barely do we get past the joy and celebration of Purim before we have to turn our attention to the other “P” holiday; of course, I am speaking of Passover. While these two holidays may seem diametrically separate, they are actually intricately connected. The rabbis mandate that the study of the Laws of Passover commence thirty days prior to the holiday. What is exactly thirty days before Passover? Purim! I believe that the juxtaposition of Purim and Passover can teach us a lot about the nature of the holidays themselves and our relationship with God.

First, consider that these two holidays are almost an inverted mirror of each other. Purim is a relatively minor holiday with little preparation, and it is celebrated almost entirely in the synagogue. Passover, on the other hand, is a major holiday requiring significant preparations, and it is celebrated almost exclusively in the home. Further, while Purim is almost entirely a joyous holiday, Passover, while a time of great joy, has a very somber tone throughout.

Yet there are many similarities as well. Both stories contain a great hero who has to go up against an evil ruler: Moses to Pharoah, and Esther to King Ahashverosh. We also learn that our protagonists have support from a family member: Esther from Mordechai, and Moses from his brother, Aharon.

Now consider the protagonists of each biblical story: after years of harsh labor God redeemed the Jewish people only after placing before Pharaoh and his people ten plagues. God led the Jewish people through the Sea of Reeds and eventually towards Sinai. God was not just present in the Passover story; God is an active participant. Yet in the Purim story, God is nowhere to be found. The Book of Esther is the only book in the Tanakh that does not contain the name of God. (Interestingly, the name of the human protagonist in the Passover story, Moses, is missing from the Haggadah.) We are left to believe that the human protagonists in the story of Purim, namely Esther and Mordechai, saved the Jewish people from destruction on their own merit.

I believe that having the stark juxtaposition of Purim and Passover is a comment on our relationship with God. As we look back at both of these stories of redemption, is it possible for them to be solely human or divine in nature? Do we believe that Esther and Mordechai on their own saved the Jewish people? While God is the clear protagonist in the Passover story, had it not been for Moses and Aharon, would the Jewish people have followed a God they did not know? How much more likely that our redemption requires action from both the human and divine.