It was Passover and a friend had invited us to a kid friendly Seder dinner. I am not Jewish but I have always wanted to participate if it would not offend anyone. It seems to me that Exodus is the story of God introducing Himself to us through His interactions with His chosen people. If this is true, then Exodus is not just the story of one people but the story for everyone who wishes to know God.
Our gracious hosts led us through the steps of the Seder with the depth and brevity that two preschoolers and this emotionally exhausted goy could handle. I was amazed. Jewish people who observe Passover to the full extent of religious law spend weeks preparing for this event each year, following specific religious decrees down to the length of time it can take to make matzo (18 minutes) because their ancestors had no time for bread to rise. The great-great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers of my friends were there on the first Passover. They painted their doorposts with blood to say, “We are God’s people,” trusting that God would keep His promise to protect them from death. Even more amazing, generations of Jews across the globe have been taunted, hated, humiliated and murdered for being the people God chose to be different from the rest. But each year after extensive planning and rule keeping as a form of worship, they sing “Dayenu” (dye-YAY-new).
Dayenu is a new word for me so I consulted the wise – some Rabbis and Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, “The word ‘Dayenu’ means approximately ‘it would have been enough for us (1).” The thousand year old song sang at Seder entitled Dayenu has 15 stanzas, each a statement of an act of God – five about freedom from slavery, five about the miracles God performed and five about God inviting His people into relationship (2, Meyer and 3, Ratner). God freed us. God showed us His power. God invited us to be with Him. Each time the people’s response is Dayenu – it would have been enough for us.
I wish I could meet each one of the millions of living humans who sang this over hundreds of years. I want to ask them: Do you feel it? Do you believe it? Are you scared? Are you angry? Do you love God? Do you hate him? Would it have been enough?
Rabbi Menachem Leibtag (4) explains that the purpose of singing Dayenu between the Exodus story and a time of praising God is to prepare your hearts with thankfulness.
I have a hard time being thankful.
If you are taking a deep breath to begin the lecture on all the emotional, spiritual and physical benefits of thankfulness, please exhale. I know that already. My problem is, I don’t want to have things to be thankful for. I want them fixed. I want people to not get cancer. My dog to not eat a human pill. Genocide to not exist. I want my daughter to not have spent the first four years of her life randomly throwing up until we could figure out the multiple causes. I want divorce to never be a reality and I want back the two years of my life that I lost when I was sick. I want my friend’s lungs to work at 100% and I want there not to be any trash on the beach to clean up.
The world is screwed up. Almost everything is wrong and I am tired.
My only hope is that the powerful God of Exodus will look down at this finite human, have compassion and give me rest. For that, I would be truly thankful.
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