Dayanu to Deaths

Rav Shimon Schwab in his commentary on the Pesach Dayanu describes the repetition as a formulation of hopelessness followed by salvation. The hopelessness is being vanquished by the enemy.

The victory is our realization that God is our ruler as we express in the Shira’s Yam Suf Hashem Yimloch L’olam V’aed, God will reign for all eternity.

Jewish people have suffered persecution throughout the millennia at the hands of many an enemy. From ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece to 20th century Germany to modern day Persia (Iran) Jews were targeted by nation states in a concerted effort to tear our fabric and to exterminate us.

Not merely to defeat us, as in, by winning a war, but to vanquish to annihilate us.

In the latter part of the 20th century addiction became an enemy of the Jewish community. Sinister deadly drugs, some peddled by Jewish drug dealers, declared war on our youth working tirelessly to obliterate a millennial generation and accomplish what Egypt and Germany could not. In the tens and thousands youth succumbed.

Dayanu is a tribute to God in recognition for the myriad of good he bestowed on the Jewish nation in their exodus from Egypt and sojourn through the desert to Israel.

In each of Dayanu’s 14 statements we acknowledge His goodness.

We say in unison thank you, enough.

In every corner of the world in every time zone from Australia to Zanzibar we proclaim our sufficient satisfaction with the first goodness, the second goodness and so forth.

We never envisioned we were worthy of achieving the fourteenth and final step the gift from God of entering Eretz Yisrael.

Indeed each and every time we are now fortunate to visit Israel we should proclaim Dayanu.

The similarities of the depth of despair Jews suffered in Egypt to the despair suffered by addiction, depression, eating disorder, and the deliverance to expressions of Dayanu as in 12 step recovery are striking.

Our sages explain that we hit rock bottom in Mitzraim the 49th level of tuemah, degradation.
We heeded the road to recovery.
Hitting the 50th level would’ve meant no turning back.

Rock bottom for an addict is finding oneself 1,000 miles from home, needled and riddled with heroin, or penniless and starving, or in jail with no relative or friend willing to post bail. Hitting the 50th level would mean death.

Recovery is the realization that drugs or alcohol is the enemy that vanquishes.

It may even be that addicts facing despair begin their recovery, 12 step, to the realization that God reigns, prior to most non addicts who do not yet experience that need to return. There are a multitude of people not yet ready for their own first step whatever their personal recovery needs may entail.

The Jewish nation traveled through the desert for forty years. At 12 step meetings it is not uncommon to hear a person in recovery describe their ten days or ten months of sobriety. The shadows an addict sees in their dark days are like the scorpions the Jewish nation was spared in the desert. For others at these meetings successful sobriety may be ten years, twenty years or forty years of recovery.

Every step of the 12 steps is acceptance, recognition, self discovery, a commitment to vanquish the enemy.

If the 14 step Dayanu is our collective tribute for the entire ladder we climbed these last 3,000 years than a 12 step recovery program is our individual self actualization for every rung we claw up every day.

At the Seder this Pesach let us pray for one more dayanu, enough!
Dayanu to addictions.
Dayanu to its despair.
Dayanu to its death.

About the Author
David Mandel is Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children's Home and Family Services in New York
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