I gobbled up the last hamantaschen. Now, attention shifts to Seder planning.
Even in a Jewish leap year, Purim is scheduled later, just a month before Passover. Why not a month earlier (we have two Adars this year)? What connects the two holidays?
Both conform to that Jewish holiday cliché - "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." Yet in many ways, the holidays stand in opposition.
The Exodus involves supernatural miracles, while the Purim story unfolds by way of human hand and heart.
God is not directly visible in the Purim Megillah text. Our victory over Haman is presented as a human victory - the product of planning and execution by Mordecai and Esther.
Conversely, our liberation from Egyptian slavery is God's achievement. The traditional Passover Haggadah doesn't even mention Moses. We are reminded again and again that "with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm," God brought us out of Egypt.
Achashverosh, the Persian ruler, is not the villain of the Purim tale, though it is by his power and decree that the Jews are to be wiped out. Our salvation is found through persuasion. Esther appeals to the king's heart and mind and changes their direction.
By contrast, Pharaoh is impervious to appeals. We are liberated not by human persuasion but by God's miracles.
Both holidays relate to specific oppression of the Jews. And yet, Passover lends itself to broader concerns. We are instructed to acknowledge the suffering of the Egyptians; Purim offers no such compassion for our enemies.
"Do not oppress the stranger," we are commanded, "for you know the feeling of the stranger because you yourselves were strangers in Egypt." The Haggadah proclaims, "Let all who are hungry come and eat."
Rabbi Margie Klein suggests that Passover teaches us empathy and Purim teaches us
Israeli scholar Yossi Klein Halevi writes:
Jewish history speaks to our generation in the voice of two biblical commands to remember. The first voice commands us to remember that we were strangers in the land of Egypt, and the message of that command is: "Don't be brutal." The second voice commands us to remember how the tribe of Amalek [Haman's tribe] attacked us without provocation while we were wandering in the desert, and the message of that command is: "Don't be naïve."
We live in an age of contradiction. Jews possess unprecedented power and privilege. And, we continue to face hatred and violence.
Halevi observes our tendency to fall into one camp or the other - "Purim Jews" and "Passover Jews." And yet, the tradition calls us to celebrate both Purim AND Passover. Perhaps that is why, even in a leap year, Purim and Passover are so close together. Ignoring the lessons of one risks losing our lives; ignoring the other risks losing our souls.
Hillel asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me," and "if I am only for myself, what am I?"