Faith and Food: Life Lessons from Jewish Holidays

Hiding in Plain Sight

Masks and costumes, carnivals, parties, and gaily wrapped packages of food. What could be a more fun holiday than Purim?

I’ve long felt that if Jews had to choose two holidays to celebrate, they should definitely be Purim and Simchat Torah, as opposed to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

But aside from being fun, Purim is also deep.

Let’s start with an interesting linguistic twist. Yom Kippur, apparently Purim’s polar opposite, is called in the Torah “Yom Kippurim.” Translated literally, this means “the day that is like Purim.” Really? Exactly in what universe is Yom Kippur similar to Purim? But there’s more – the words seem to indicate that Purim is the ultimate, and Yom Kippur is trying its best to be just like Purim. What’s happening?

It would seem at first blush that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and Purim is, well, kind of like a hybrid between Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. But nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two modes of Jewish attitude when it comes to our relationship with God. One is reverence, and one is joy. Given the choice, approaching God with joy is holier than approaching God with reverence. Just as in our human relationships, we want our loved ones to feel joy in our relationship, and not just duty, so God truly desires our heart. Judaism and Jewish practice have a vast capacity to fill us with joy, meaning, and purpose.

Yom Kippur is about reverence. But Purim is about pure, unbridled joy. Given the choice, Purim is the role model – Yom Kippur gets the silver.

How so?

Purim is a celebration of our national survival against all odds – but it’s more. It’s a story of God hiding in the shadows. Megillat Esther – the story of Purim, in ancient Persia in roughly the year 357 BC, is unique in all Jewish texts: it does not even once contain the name of God.

The message is subtle but clear: God was pulling the strings all along but was hiding behind the scenes. When the edict to kill the Jews was reversed, and the Jews were saved, it was a triumph and a miracle. But this was not the open, glamorous miracle of the Passover story, or even the oil burning for eight days, of the Chanukah story.

This was a miracle of our contemporary times: a miracle where God is hiding in plain sight. A miracle where it seems that events are just progressing naturally – but then you perceive that things are just a tad too coincidental to be random chance. A miracle that feels like a small, private hug from God. This is the joy of Purim.

We have moments like this all the time if our eyes and ears are open. Allowing these occurrences to fill us with joy, to dance in the kitchen, to hug our loved ones harder and offer up a silent thanksgiving prayer to the One behind the scenes – that is the joy of Purim.

And that joy – that everyday gratitude for the everyday miracles – is actually the holiest thing of all.

This holiday’s recipe comes from a Momentum staff member who never spends more than five minutes on any recipe.

Lazy Dazy Purim Punch for Kids

2 bananas, sliced then frozen
3 cups pineapple chunks
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
64 oz any brand fruit juice
1 1/2 quarts sherbet, any flavor will do, softened
2 liters lemon lime soda

Combine all the fruit into a punch bowl. Scoop in the sherbert. Pour the juice in first and stir to combine. Then, slowly pour in the soda (slow is key here!). Add ice and serve.

(If you want to make this for the adults, add 1-2 cups of vodka)


By: Ruchi Koval

MOMentum Trip Leader, Founder and Spiritual Leader of Congregation JFX, prolific author, and parenting coach.


Ruchi is a spiritual leader, parenting coach, author, columnist, and blogger. Ruchi teaches spiritual character development to adults and teens, mentors educators, and is also a musician. Ruchi and her husband have seven children and live in Cleveland, Ohio.

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