Purim vs. Passover 

Purim vs. Passover 

Purim and Passover both come in the spring, but they are very different. One is the story of a near-genocide of the Jews of Persia; some brave heroes stood up to power and saved their people. Now it’s basically a time for fun and games and noisemakers and costumes. These days, it is largely a holiday for children. Purim is a lot of fun, but we don’t think much about its lessons. Comedy laughs at danger.

Passover, on the other hand, confronts danger and takes it very seriously. Passover is very complicated, with all of the rituals and the special foods for the Seder plate and the Haggadah text that leads us through the evening.  Passover is about serious themes – it is about freedom and human dignity, it is about the coming of spring and the rebirth of the world, and what is more, Passover tells the origin story of the Jewish people – we were slaves in Egypt and G-d redeemed us, bringing us to the Promised Land and freedom.  Passover is serious business.

Considering all this, it is interesting that Purim is a holiday few adults even know about, but Passover is the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays. Statistics show that upwards of 90% of Jewish people make sure to get to a Passover seder.  Just to give you something to compare it to, only about 60% of Jewish people fast on Yom Kippur.  

Passover is also about genocide-the killing of all the Israelite baby boys in Egypt. And it talks about heroes, like the Egyptian midwives who saved the baby boys at birth and Pharaoh’s own daughter who rebelled against her father’s dark decree and saved the Israelite baby who would lead our people out of Egypt, Moses.

We have two choices: We can look at danger and laugh and drown it out with noisemakers. Or we can confront it and fight against it. Serious people know that Passover, for all of the togetherness and complications, has some serious questions to ask and some important responses to remember. Passover will teach us that tyranny takes many forms, that no one should be oppressed, that all people should have the same rights. Pesach teaches us, year after year, that there are those who would oppress others if we let them. And Passover tells us that we are not alone, that G-d will be with us if we’re willing to fight the good fight.

Rabbi Scolnic