The year 5775 is sandwiched between two leap years, each of which contains an extra month of Adar. In those leap years, and despite the fact that most authorities maintain that the “real” Adar is the first one, the holiday of Purim always falls in the second Adar, so that even in a leap year Purim and Pesach are separated by a month.
Why do we always celebrate Purim in such close proximity to Pesach? Why must they always be linked in time?
The Talmud (Megillah 6b) explains, in the name of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, that it is “preferable to juxtapose [one] redemption to [the other] redemption.” (The Yerushalmi states unequivocally: in order “to juxtapose [one] redemption to the [other] redemption.”)
In other words, the two redemptions – the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the salvation of the Jewish people from the genocidal designs of Haman in the story of Purim – are naturally related and require commemoration within the same period of time.
On the surface, though, the two redemptions could not be more dissimilar. Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.
Pesach commemorates the establishment of the Jewish people through deliverance from Egyptian bondage at the very beginning of the biblical narrative, forty years before we entered and conquered the land of Israel; the story of Purim comes at the very end of the biblical era while we were ensconced in exile between the eras of the two Batei Mikdash. In the Jewish calendar, Pesach falls in the very first month of Nissan; Purim is celebrated in the very last month of the year.
And there is this most critical distinction between the two holidays: during the redemption of Pesach, the liberation from the slavery of Egypt, the Jewish people were completely passive. Miracles abounded and the Hand of Hashem was open and revealed to all. The few acts that we did – such as the designation and slaughter of the Korban Pesach – were prerequisites for redemption in the sense that they qualified those offering the sacrifice as members of the holy nation about to be redeemed. We departed “in haste,” objects of the national destiny that Hashem fashioned for us, beneficiaries of His “mighty Hand and outstretched Arm.”
By contrast, the redemption of Purim was almost the antithesis of that of Pesach. The Jews of Persia, led by Mordechai and Esther, took control of their own destiny. The miracles that took place were subtle and concealed, hidden within the natural order of politics and statecraft.
The protagonists of the salvation utilized their wisdom, ingenuity, and knowledge of human nature in order to manipulate Haman to his death by execution and King Achashveirosh to reverse – or at least revise – his decree of extermination against the people of Israel. When the day of the decree arrived – Adar 13 – the Jewish people, downtrodden in a persistent exile that seemed like it would never end, rose up in their righteous might to subdue and vanquish their enemies.
It was a role reversal, not only from the forced limitations of exile but especially from the passivity of Pesach. On Pesach – the seventh day – we were told that “Hashem will fight for you, and you will be silent” (Shemot 14:14). On Purim, Hashem remained in the background, with no explicit reference to Him even in the megillah, the chronicle of the account, and the Jewish people seized the moment and the day, defeated our enemies, and prepared the way for the building of the second Beit HaMikdash.