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The sustainability of Jewish life is being tested

Elan Ezrachi
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Published: 15 September 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2024

ELAN EZRACHI: In the coming years we will see the demise of certain structures and the creation of new communal fabrics

THERE IS A STRANGE CONNECTION between Purim and Yom Kippur. In Hebrew, there is also similarity of sound and spelling to the two words. What is the connection between these two such different and even contradicting events in the Jewish calendar?  How can we compare a day of atonement and fasting to a holiday that commands us to dress up and get drunk?

This juxtaposition prompted multiple rabbinic commentaries that aimed to show the connection between these two benchmarks. One similarity is that on both days we disconnect ourselves from reality. On Yom Kippur, we separate ourselves from material and bodily constraints and on Purim, we put our brains on hold and allow full body pleasure.

In both cases, we have an out of body or out of soul experience that enables us to reflect on fundamental existential questions regarding personal and collective identity, in the world and in our Jewish communities. Both days also hold a message of social responsibility.

On Purim we are obliged to provide gifts to the poor and on Yom Kippur we are told that without forgiveness from fellow humans we will not be exempt from the ultimate punishment. In short, Purim and Yom Kippur are two sides of the same coin.

In this “Year of the Mask” we’ve had all these elements in our daily lives. We didn’t have to wait for Purim or Yom Kippur. We wore masks and by doing so separated ourselves from others; we hyper-reflected on the meaning of this pandemic on our personal and communal lives; we showed concern to our fellow Jews and to fellow humans; and we discovered our ability to devise creative responses to a difficult situation. All these responses are reflected in this 2020 High Holy Day supplement.

This is the fourth supplement that I am privileged to edit for The Jewish Independent. The previous ones had overarching themes that contributors addressed from their various cultural and ideological perspectives. This year, there was a single theme, but it propelled our writers in different directions.

We received writings with philosophical reflections, descriptions of organisational innovations, powerful emotional responses and even creative business ideas. We also saw how this pandemic affected us as individuals, and then as citizens of countries and members of communities.

Here, again, Purim and Yom Kippur connect. On Yom Kippur we are instructed to torture our souls and distance ourselves from all evil and on Purim we delight our bodies and hyper-socialise. According to the Jewish tradition, both contribute to redemption.

Our contributors have described how the pandemic has affected them, what they have been going through and how they plan to renew the covenant. In other words, the pandemic has pushed all of us to the extremes of our existence. The sustainability of Jewish life around the world is being tested.

In the coming years we will see the demise of certain practices and the rise of new modalities. It is my hope that these articles will inspire our readers to see the opportunities ahead and energise them to act and celebrate our inner resources.

L’Shana Tova, Elan Ezrachi

Illustration: Avi Katz


About the author

Elan Ezrachi

Elan Ezrachi is a native of Jerusalem, an educator and specialist in Jewish peoplehood and Israel-Diaspora relations, and a social activist promoting pluralism and community in Jerusalem.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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