Passover is approaching. And though I thought about what it could provide in the matter of topics — the similarity in its Hebrew name, Pesach, to the Aramaic and Hebrew name for Easter, Peschah, or something about cleaning, or keeping order or perhaps about slavery and freedom — in the end I decided to focus on one part of the story, the song Dayenu.
Literally, it would’ve been enough for us.
A popular melody through the generations, its verses note all that G-D did for us, from taking us out of Egypt to giving us the Torah at Mount Sinai, the seminal event in Judaism. Step by step, the song recounts what was done, and notes that if G-D had stopped at each event, it would’ve sufficed.
Now, my Judaism comes from a place of identity and appreciation for the history of my people’s journey that brought me to this time and place. There is a chain of predecessors going back to the time of Moses, even if I all I know of them spans a few brief generations. But for them to have survived so that I could stand here, for them to have lived — this speaks to me. “In every generation,” the familiar words in the Haggadah go, “they rise up against us to destroy us…”
Speaking for myself, religion is not a spiritual thing. I don’t rely on Judaism to give me strength when I have none. I find that within myself. But in finding part of my identity in Judaism, though, I cement that which I know — we all need to belong somewhere, to find our tribe. And that ritual and rules are a part of what identity is made of.
By ending each stanza with dayenu, by pausing to acknowledge what was done and what might not have been done, this particular ritual exemplifies another value I hold dear — gratitude. I’ve written about it before as part of the larger topic on finding peace of mind in a world which doesn’t do much to get you there. There are other Jewish values which I’ve blogged on and which serve as good guideposts as well, like shalom bayit (peace in the home), or derech eretz (literally, the way of the land, it means to do the right thing).
Any way to imbue people with solid and caring values is a good thing in my eyes. And at looking at these, I can’t help but think they are mostly rooted in gratitude. When you count your blessings and are grateful for what others do, when you don’t carry expectations of how others ought to behave, when you feel so lucky to have others in your life, then you behave in a way that is markedly different than if you take any of it for granted.
Once we fully internalize that no one owes us anything, then we can more fully appreciate both who is in our life and all that is good in it. And we can also recognize that there but for the grace of others, we could be worse off or in another place or…or…or…a million other things. But we are not. We are where we are. We can — and should — always find the good in any situation instead of focusing on the bad.
Because at any point along the way, no matter what others have done for us, it would’ve been enough. Dayenu. Truly. To all, I say: Thank you for all that you have done, thank you.