Erev Yom Kippur 2015 occurred exactly on the first of the last 100 remaining days of 2015. I remember this because I got an email on that day titled “Can you be happy for the last 100 days of 2015?” from 100happydays – a Non-Profit Foundation “on the mission to make the world happier”. In the email, I was invited to participate in a 100 day long challenge, in which I’d take a daily picture of what made me happy – a ritual to help cultivate daily moments of happiness. I thought it might be a nice experiment, especially starting on the eve of Yom Kippur.
On the night of Kol Nidrei I took a picture of my guitar, my book of music/prayers and a key given out during Rabbi Lisa’s sermon and I named the image “my work makes me happy”, a sentiment that felt profoundly true on that particular night. My last day of the challenge contained a small collage of images depicting some of what happened over the year and I gave it the title “Opportunities make me happy”.

By the end of 2015 I ended up glancing at the list of happy moments with awe and appreciation, as I waved my goodbyes to them and moved on to days ahead. The arrival of the Jewish month of Adar (Mid February 2016) brought the list back into my mind – after all, we read in the Talmud (Taanit 29): “Mi shenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” – When the month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy, or “joy is increased”. As there is no tradition or instruction or Jewish law that make any kind of suggestions as to how the increase of joy is manifested into practice I thought that perhaps my daily documented joy-bringers would inspire others to find their sources of joy for themselves during the month of Adar.

My 100 happy days also allowed me to look at the connection between Yom Kippur – the day that started the 100-happy-days challenge for me – and Purim. It always fascinated me that Yom Kippurim (Day of Atonements) could also be read as Yom Ke-Purim (A day similar to Purim).

We find various other sources that suggest that there’s some further connection between those two holidays to be made:

What was the good name that [Esther] earned for herself? That all the festivals may be nullified, but the days of Purim will never be nullified… Rabbi Eliezer says, Yom Kippur, too, will not be nullified.

Midrash – Yalkut Shimoni, Esther 944

In addition to the scroll of Esther being the only scroll, apart from the Torah, that has its own blessing prior to reading it, or the fact that is written on a scroll just like the Torah, in Maimonides’ book Mishneh Torah, we read that

“all the books of the Prophets and all the Writings will be annulled in the days of the Messiah, apart from Megillat Esther [the scroll of Esther]. It will continue to be binding like the Five Books of Moses and the entire Oral Law which will never be invalidated. Even though all memory of our suffering will be erased…still the days of Purim will not be annulled.”

Mishneh Torah, Scroll of Esther and Hanukkah 2:18

One might wonder how Purim, a holiday of joy and laughter, dressing up, drinking, silliness and drag accompanied by a reading of a scroll filled with intrigue, feasts, head-spinning story-development and void of any mentioning of God or any commandments found itself in line with Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred holidays in the Jewish year, dedicated to self-reflection and introspection and how the Purim story is in the same league of importance and meaning as the stories of the Torah. The Jerusalem Talmud even goes as far to suggest that the story of Esther was given to Moses on mount Sinai (PT Megilah 70d)!

Seemingly, it’s a paradox and though I love to leave questions open for interpretation, allow me to suggest an answer:

Perhaps Purim as a holiday and Purim as a story complements Yom Kippur and the Torah as another dimension in which God reveals itself to us. If God would only manifest godself in smoke, lightning and visible sounds, as described in the Torah, would it be complete? Can there be another quality of divine revelation that is perhaps more subtle?

Perhaps a divine revelation that requires effort to be discovered, like the one in the Purim storyline is a quality needed to compliment the other perception of God?

If we look closely, we might notice that Purim isn’t just about the satisfaction of the physical desires of the body and the cheerfulness, as it contains the instruction to pay close attention to the chanting of the Megillah. It asks us to deepen our awareness and sense of purpose in the world by utilizing both our bodies and minds, whereas on Yom Kippur we solely focus on our minds, while trying to annul our physical needs. Perhaps this is why Yom Kippur can be read as a day that’s similar to Purim, though not quite as complete as Purim.

The story of Purim, in a way, is an invitation to interpret reality, to act in it and to discover God wherever it hides, without special effects or the voice of prophets or extraordinary miracles. Human needs, like celebration and bodily indulgences receive a status of sacredness. Purim invites us to find God in our lives, by ourselves – by dancing and singing, by listening, by dressing up, or by searching for and documenting moments of joy in our everyday lives.