Sunday, March 28, 2010


One of the centerpieces of the Passover seder is the singing of Dayenu. I think most everyone knows a little of this, even if not the whole thing. The word "Dayenu" translates as "it would have been enough," and the message of the song fits very well with a simplicity lifestyle. "Each of these good things would have been enough to earn our thanks."

If God had taken out of Egypt and not divided us into tribes, dayenu...
If God had fed us manna but not given us the Shabbat, dayenu...
If God had taken us to Sinai and not given us the Torah, dayenu
If God had given us the Torah and not allowed us to enter into the Land of Israel, dayenu... etc.
This has sometimes striked me as rather forced. Would it really have been enough to take us out of Egypt if the sea didn't split? Even Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev asked what would have been the purpose of bringing us to Sinai and not have given us the Torah.

I found a good insight into this in the Hagaddah for Jews and Buddhists, which I looked over in preparation for the seder this year.

You have to know the difference between more and enough (dayenu). We always want more... more freedoms, more love, more money, more... more... more...

What we have is sufficient. If there is more, it is a blessing and the Creator deserves thanks.
The message of dayenu is that life is not a path to a predetermined end, and the goodness of life is not dependent on where one ends up, either in accomplishment, prosperity, or spiritual achievement. Each step is important in and of itself. The ability to feel gratitude at each and every step on the path is itself a spiritual approach, as well as a necessary precondition of the next step, as well as a defense against believing that the next achievement or acquisition, or the ultimate accomplishment or achievement (whatever we may imagine them to be), are necessary for our lives and our paths to have value. In other words, feeling blessed in the present blessing is not dependent on what comes next.

In my case, if I had been given the opportunity to go to graduate school, and not been given the opportunity to work in the field, dayenu. If I had been able to work in the field but not been able to have a decent standard of living, dayenu. If I had a decent standard of living but not been able to pay down debt or save for college or retirement...

Well, actually, I haven't done those last things yet. And none of the things I've been able to do have been done without difficulty. But it's okay. I'm grateful for what I have been able to do, and for what I have today. When I look at my family, my reasonably happy wife and kids, the community I have the opportunity to serve, it really does feel like enough. It feels like dayenu. And that truly is a blessing.

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