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Purim Celebrates Unity While Embracing Diversity

March 6, 2022 | by Shmuel Maybruch

In marriage and nationhood, unity #does not supersede personal individuality.

Purim is celebrated on two different days. In most parts of the world, Purim is observed on the 14th of Adar. In Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities, the holiday is celebrated the next day, on the 15th of Adar.

This disparity has always bothered me. Wouldn’t it be nicer if everyone enjoyed Purim at the same time?

The bifurcation is even more curious when you consider that some of the mitzvot of Purim aim to unite a community. One reason for mishlaoch manot (food gifts) and matanot l’evyonim (charity to the poor) is to help the community bond and shoulder mutual responsibility for other people’s celebratory meals.

The great Hassidic master, the Chidushei HaRim explains that Purim models the beauty and complexity of true unity. Haman had noticed that the Jews were a divided people. They were keenly focused on their differences, dissent, and disagreements. Haman took advantage of the undercurrent of adversity. He understood that a house divided shall not stand, and made a case to Achashveirosh for their imminent annihilation.

Mordechai and Esther noticed that Haman was preying upon their Achilles’ heel. They addressed the pervasive national disunity. They gathered the Jews together and taught them to focus on their commonalities, community, and cohesiveness. The nation that prayed together stayed together, and Haman’s decree was averted.

Esther and Mordechai understood that true unity does not mean that each person has to be the same.

But Esther and Mordechai understood that true unity does not mean that each person has to be the same, or that they all observe identical customs. It means that as people focus on their common goals and shared relationship, they shine as individuals. A nation consists of many different people who accept each other as complementary parts of a beautiful symphony. The Jewish nation has a common mission to strive to live with Jewish values. And each person, through his own unique strengths, character, and personality, contributes to that shared mission.

Under the tutelage of Mordechai and Esther, the Jewish people learned that their togetherness did not overshadow their personal uniqueness. They were united while expressing their own distinct personalities.

By establishing the holiday of Purim at two different times, Esther, Mordechai and the Jewish sages perpetuated the message that the unity of the nation does not supersede personal individuality.

Rejoicing on different days of Purim reminds us that we are part of one nation, yet encouraged not to be exactly the same as others. People can share the same goals and ideas without having to be the same.

This insight is relevant to personal relationships. Marriage partners do not need to be copies of each other. They do not need to have similar personalities or share the same opinions about everything. A couple can have a close, fulfilling and joyful relationship by celebrating each other’s unique personalities, traits, and ideas. Marriage entails the couple appreciating their differences against a backdrop of common goals, shared purposes, and a respectful relationship.

Part of the individuality of marriage is that each member of the couple will see things differently and have their own perspective and understanding of situations and decisions. A successful, satisfying marriage requires spouses to give each other the space to have their own thoughts and ideas, even when they do not agree.

Empathy is the cornerstone of any true relationship. Understanding the other’s perspective, even if they do not agree, creates cohesion, gives validation, and strengthens the couple’s love for each other.

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