But when you examine the themes of Purim and Pesach (Passover), they are almost identical. Why are they celebrated one after the other, thirty days apart? Why do we need what is essentially the same story repeated, one thirty days after the other?
What exactly is this story?
The entire Nation of Israel is trapped within an alien culture.
That culture turns upon us with the intention of destroying us, G-d forbid.
We realize that our only salvation is through returning to G-d.
We cry out to G-d to save us.
He sends a great leader.
There is a miraculous salvation and evil is vanquished.
This is the basic theme of Purim and Pesach. Why do we “need” both?
The word “need” is in quotation marks because both events actually took place, and they both took place at the time of year which we commemorate with holidays, so it is not as if the repetition or timing is arbitrary. The question is actually why we are called upon to make such a great celebration over each event, one after the other.
Remarkably, although Purim and Pesach are similar, they are also in some ways opposites.
Although we may think that Purim and Pesach occur “one after the other,” thirty days apart, the truth is quite the reverse! Does Purim precede Pesach? Not at all!
The events of Pesach occurred approximately one thousand years before Purim! Not only that, but the two events are not a month apart, but rather almost a year apart! Pesach occurs in the month of Nissan, the first month, and Purim in the month of Adar, the last month! Pesach is first in history and first in the calendar! This difference is extremely meaningful.
Let’s examine world history. In fact, the entire history of mankind is the same “story” as the events of Pesach and Purim. But this story has not yet reached its conclusion. We are now living in the final chapters of the colossal drama called “The History of Mankind.”
In the beginning of time, on the Sixth Day of Creation, Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator. As a result, they were no longer able to live in harmony with Him. Because of their rebellion, they were forced to enter a world of suffering, strife and death, a world of exile in which we, their children, are still entrapped.
The entire history of mankind is the story of our attempt to re-enter the perfect world of the Garden of Eden. As Maimonides says regarding the verse “G-d … will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring …” (Deuteronomy 30:6), “at that time, man will return [to the spiritual state] he was in before the sin of Adam…”
G-d created a nation called Israel, a nation which would learn and live by His Law, a nation which could draw all of mankind along with it, back to that perfect existence which we enjoyed, ever so briefly, so long ago. The story of Pesach and Purim is the story of how this ideal can in fact be successfully realized in this world.
But why – back to our question – do we need it in two versions?
Pesachis the prototype of all redemptions. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim - The Father’s deeds foreshadow the Son’s”. From this we can understand our own era. Pesach is described in the Torah. Moses, the prototype and greatest prophet, is the leader who guides our Nation back to its essential role as a Nation of Priests. No matter what events transpired after leaving Egypt, the Jewish People gained the Essential Tool which we needed to complete the process of Redemption, namely the Torah which we received at Mount Sinai. This Redemption is associated with the Written Torah, within which it appears, and with the direct revelation of the Master of the Universe. As Rashi says, “Even a slave-woman saw at the sea that which the prophets did not see” (Exodus 15:2). This Redemption took place at the beginning of the Jewish Year and at the beginning of our history.
Purim, on the other hand, is associated with the Oral Torah, the end of history and the end of the Jewish Year. Although the Scroll of Esther is part of the Bible, nevertheless the Name of G-d is omitted. Thus, this is the prototype chronicle of the exile, which is by definition a period in which G-d is hidden. A hallmark of exile is that the Sages are empowered to lead the Jewish People during the period when G-d’s Presence is hidden, to such an extent that, when it conflicts with the halachic decision of our rabbis, “We do not pay attention to a ‘bas kol (voice from Heaven)!’” (Bava Metzia 59b)
Pesachtakes place at the beginning of our national history. It is the classic moment which led to the meeting between the Jewish People and G-d at Mount Sinai. Purim, conversely, is the prototype of the Redemption with which history will end, the Redemption founded upon the authority given to the Rabbis to guide us through history during exile. The Redemption described in the Scroll of Esther tragically did not endure. It led us back to the Land of Israel. The Second Temple was destroyed and we once again returned to exile, an exile so long that we are still entrapped within its darkness almost two thousand years later.
But there will come a time when Purim will be replayed, a time at the end of history when “The Holy One will once again appoint a king over us whose decrees will be as harsh as those of Haman”. At that time, when there is apparently no way out, we will repent and cry out to G-d, “and He will bring us back to the right path” (Sanhedrin 97b).
Once again, we will “raise the cup of salvations, and … invoke the Name of G-d” (Havdallah prayer). But this time forever!