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    Purim & Yom Kippur

    Purim revellers at the Great Synagogue, Sydney, in 2009

    Excitement and colour are the keynotes of Purim. There is nothing austere or restrained about the occasion. The celebration is visible and audible. Masks and noise makers are everywhere.

    The contrast with Yom Kippur is palpable. Yet, some people compare the two occasions and read the biblical name Yom Kippurim as Yom K’Purim – “a day like Purim”.

    The idea is almost preposterous. On the one hand there is Yom Kippur where there is spirituality, honesty, truth, quietness and solitude.

    On the other hand Purim is a noisy popular carnival which knows nothing of the deeper questions of life and death.

    Some years ago there was a public celebration of Purim at Parliament House in Melbourne where an array of politicians wore funny hats and booed Haman, quite lost in all this strange Jewish buffoonery.

    How can anyone compare Purim with Yom Kippur?

    If you ask me which day I prefer, the answer is “both”. It is fun to have a day to fantasise, when I don’t see the real me, when I can pretend, act and release restraints.

    I also, however, need Yom Kippur, which brings me back to reality and shows that I cannot hide from other people, from God, or from myself.

    This week on Purim give yourself a day off, but don’t overdo the masks and the music. And don’t forget that Yom Kippur will be there in a few months’ time.

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