Purim day. Twenty-five hours of condensed light, light so high it transcends vessels of order and propriety. Sparkly, primordial light. Reflected in sequins, ribbons, glitter, masks, and a swirling craziness. Drinks, chocolate, candy, clowns. Wide-eyed, red-lipsticked princesses and mustached superheroes flying on a buzz of excitement.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, some six months earlier, seems as vastly different as can be. People clad in angelic white, spending long meditative hours in quiet, pensive, soulful introspection. By fasting, repenting, singing heartfelt Purim is actually the holier dayprayers of yearning and supplication, we recharge and re-embrace our essence, remembering that we are eternal souls first and foremost, clothed in cumbersome bodies. Through the transcendence of the day, those bodies and all their urges seem a little more translucent; the soul is shining through.

Yet, one of the names of Yom Kippur is Yom Hakipurim, “the day like Purim.” Purim? How is Yom Kippur like Purim in any way, shape or form, besides the fact that they’re both Jewish holidays? It sounds ludicrous at first. But we know that Hebrew words are precise. There are no coincidences. If it’s called The Day Like Purim, the similarity must be there, stretch though it may seem.

Interestingly, Purim’s not called The Day Like Yom Kippur; it’s the other way around. Although Yom Kippur appears to be the more significant, spiritual and important day, on a certain level Purim is actually the holier day. If on Yom Kippur we do our service right, it will be like Purim—we might receive a glimmer of the transcendent light of Purim.

If the light of Purim is so high, why is Purim celebrated so physically?

The Jews of Persia faced the terrifying threat of complete annihilation. Yet, with the knife at their throat, they reached down into their essence, proudly reaffirming their unique identity as a G‑dly nation. And, in a dizzying turn of events, their lives were spared.

Haman wanted to annihilate the Jews physically, so Purim is celebrated in a most earthy way. No lofty fasting and pensive soul-searching here! We joyfully celebrate our survival as Jews, as that very unique creature for which all the spiritual worlds were created: a G‑dly soul in a physical body, in a lowly world, that eats, drinks, dances and sings. And twirls graggers.

My high-powered corporate lawyer uncle calls me from the executive suite of his downtown office. He’s just received my Purim package. “Ah, Miriam, how’d you know? I was just craving a hamantash.” I imagine him swiveling away from the case he was in Purim is celebrated in a most earthy waythe middle of reviewing, leaning back in his leather chair and savoring each bite. When Purim rolls around, the Jewish soul wants a poppyseed-filled triangular pastry. The tastiest delicacy around? Maybe not, but it’s a soul food thing.

Most days, we Jews operate as mild-mannered Clark Kents, looking like just another mom, colleague, shopper, out there in the workaday world. Who would know we’re G‑dly souls on a mission, sent way down here to refine, elevate and bring a special light into this mundane place? Hiding and concealing, looking average, is a big part of this story. Queen Esther hid her Jewishness from the king, and G‑d hid His face from the Jews.

Anochi hastir astir panai, I hid My face,” said G‑d. His name isn’t even in the megillah. No splitting of the Red Sea here, just a seemingly human drama. It could look like a typical Washington saga, with political intrigue and a ruthless, power-hungry prime minister on the rise. Hatred, jealousy, plotting, one-upping, eavesdropping. But on Purim, a deeper truth comes out: even the seemingly natural events in our lives are really orchestrated by G‑d. The twists and turns “just happen” to come out just so, like Haman’s plot “just happened” to fail.

Like Superman emerging from the telephone booth, clad in his glory to save the day, the Jew lets it all hang out today. As we don masks, we’re freed to reveal another aspect of ourselves. While our workaday self is an important role we usually play, today is the day to reveal that hidden side of ourselves—that of a joyful jester dancing in special relationship with the divine. Let your whimsical inner child have her fun

Today is the day to let go of your competent, composed persona, and let your whimsical inner child have her fun. It’s the day to be whatever you want to be. My usual costume source is my closet—in a last-minute scrounge I grab some unique combo of funky hat, interesting scarf, bright skirt and sparkly shirt, quickly adding a red nose and too much makeup. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a . . . Purim gypsy, or clown, or bohemian something or other!

Part of what I adore about Purim is its unique merging of day-to-day worldliness with sparkly holiness. It’s unlike Shabbat or Yom Tov, when we don’t drive, and everything slows to a quiet, mellow pace, with a golden bubble gently separating us from a hustling, rushing world.

Purim is so different. We can drive, text, call, rush madly to megillah readings and carnivals. Cars careen up and down our Jewish neighborhood’s suburban streets, delivering mishloach manot goodie packages to friends. Mini–traffic jams develop, minivans driven by zany masked creatures trying to get up the same driveway or around the same cul-de-sac to deposit love baskets at the door.

So, the ultimate holiness is not that of contemplative fasting and prayer. Purim is about embracing the paradox of being a Jew, a G‑dly soul on a Superman mission to bring holiness into this most dense world, a world that can seem to swallow and obscure any light. Purim is about bringing that sparkling, transcendent light all the way down, expressing it in physical rejoicing.

So, pass another hamantash, please.