923 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Yom Kippur: A Day Like Purim – September 22, 2023

Leviticus 16:30

כִּֽי־בַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֛ה יְכַפֵּ֥ר עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם לְטַהֵ֣ר אֶתְכֶ֑ם מִכֹּל֙ חַטֹּ֣אתֵיכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה תִּטְהָֽרוּ׃

For on this day, atonement shall be made for you to purify you of all your sins; you shall be pure before the Lord 

For those familiar with the Hebrew language, the phrase “Yom Kippurim” has two meanings. The first is “day of atonement.” The second is “a day like Purim.” On the surface, we should reject such a translation, after all, Yom Kippur and Purim are diametrically opposite holidays. On Yom Kippur we eat no food, while on Purim we have a festive meal. On Yom Kippur we do not drink anything, while on Purim we drink wine, even to excess! Yom Kippur is solemn, Purim is raucous. No work is permitted on Yom Kippur, while all labor is permitted on Purim. 

Yom Kippur and Purim represent two opposite ends of the spiritual pendulum. On Yom Kippur we set aside the physical parts of our life – food, drink, appearances, etc. – and find God through focusing on our soul.  On Purim we seek God through the joy of physical things: the delicious food, strong drink, wine, and partying. Between these two extremes is our everyday experience. We partake of food and drink, but not to excess as we would on Purim. We pray and seek God in quiet moments, but not as ascetics, as we do on Yom Kippur. This is why Yom Kippurim is a day like Purim. The pendulum swing has made it to its opposite amplitude. 

On Yom Kippur we seek God as if we are 100% soul, and on Purim we seek God as if we were 100% body. What these days share in common is that there is no balance between body and soul, yet the goal of both is intense intimacy with the divine.  It is precisely because of their stark differences that these two holidays are eternally connected. They remind us that we too are body, and we are soul, and that a deep connection to God can be found through both. 

Office Hours

B’nai Zion Congregation
923 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37403
(enter parking lot from Oak Street)

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Friday: 10:00am – 3:00pm

Please call ahead to confirm someone will be in the office when you arrive!


Rabbi Samuel Rotenberg: rabbirotenberg@bzcongregation.com

Autumn Clark, Office Manager: office@bzcongregation.com

Phone: 423.894.8900

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