Saturday, April 07, 2007

Is enough really enough? (A fresh angle on Dayeinu)

I recently read a story about a guy who wants to sell his late grandfather’s violin. He goes to a friend, an antique dealer, to get a quote.

The dealer tells him: “Old fiddles don’t really fetch a great price nowadays.”

So, he asks the dealer what the difference is between a fiddle and a violin.

The dealer explains: “If I’m buying it from you, it’s a fiddle; if you’re buying it from me, it’s a violin.”

* * * * *

There are certain moments during the Pesach Seder which are especially animated. One of these is “Dayeinu”. In homes all around the globe, everyone joins in and sings about all the wonderful things that G-d did for us during the Exodus from Egypt.

Every once in a while, though, somebody reads the famous poem with a discerning eye and asks the obvious question. Apparently, half of what we say there makes no sense.

We say: “If He had split the sea and not led us across it on dry land- dayeinu (it would have been enough for us).”
“If he had taken us across on dry land and not drowned our enemies- dayeinu.”
“If he had drowned our enemies, but not provided food for us in the desert for 40 years- dayeinu.”


If G-d had not taken us across the sea, drowned the Egyptians or fed us in the desert, we would have died! How can we honestly say any one of those steps would have been “sufficient”?

Now, I know there are several classical answers to this question, but a different thought crossed my mind this year- that it’s all about how you read Dayeinu.

The Pesach experience is supposed to be a personal spiritual-growth launch-pad. Part of that includes revisiting how we look at our world- and making some changes.

For many of us the personal version of Dayeinu might go something like this:

If I give charity regularly, but don't go to Shul- dayeinu (I have
done enough for G-d).
If I would go to Shul, but only once a year- dayeinu.
If I not only go to Shul once a year, but once a month- dayeinu.
If I not only go to Shul once a month, but also eat kosher at home- dayeinu.
In other words, we believe we do more than enough for Him, but He often doesn’t do enough for us.

When you look at life from that perspective, you tend to wonder how you can ever say dayeinu (it is enough for me). You’re giving G-d violins- and getting fiddles in return. Regardless what you have, you still feel you need more.

A chosid once came to ask the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, for a blessing.
The Rebbe said to him: “What you need you do not hesitate to mention, but what you are needed for, you omit to mention…”

Pesach challenges us to shift our focus, to introduce an objective dayeinu to our lives.

That dayeinu would go something like this:

If I wake up in the morning, even unable to get out of bed- dayeinu (it would be enough reason to be indebted to Him).
If I get out bed, but don’t have running water- dayeinu.
If I have running water, but not a wardrobe full of clothing to wear- dayeinu.
If I have clothing to choose from, but not a fridge full of food- dayeinu.
If I have a fridge full of food, but no job to go to- dayeinu.
If I have employment, but no transport to get me there- dayeinu.
If I have employment my own transport and a family to make all the effort worthwhile- dayeinu.

Dayeinu is a reminder of how much we have to be thankful for- and how appropriate it is to give a little back to Him, considering all that He does for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Rabbi,
can you eat popcorn on Pesach?

Also, when are the monday night shiurim restarting? Thanks.