Last night Shelley and I had our Seder. I’ve been attending Seders every year since I was no years old, and I wasn’t going to have this year be any different. This was even though the two of us have been so unplugged from the huge Jewish community here in Brooklyn, that we weren’t invited anywhere this year. Our good friend David, who’d graciously have us over in the past, his living room bursting with friends and relatives and laughter and song, well, he left his wife recently and so was not hosting a Seder this year. One thing led to another and Shelley and I wound up alone, just the 2 of us, making it through the Passover meal ourselves.
What got to me this year, in our solitary, quiet celebration, was the phrase the father says to the son who asks for an explanation of what this is all about: “This is for what the Lord did for me when I was in bondage in Egypt.” For him! As if there is no distance in his mind between his ancestors and he. The lineage for him is all one long, connected line. From those poor, suffering slaves, over there in Egypt thousands and thousands of years ago, to him – and me and Shelley – here at our Passover table in America today. If it didn’t happen then, we wouldn’t be here now.
I am feeling this palpable sense of connection – with my people, with history.
And then came the prayer, and the song that sums it all up, at least for me: Dayenu (pronounced Dy-AY-nu), which means, “It would have been enough”. If God had just let us leave the land of Egypt, and didn’t part the seas for us, it would have been enough. If He had parted the seas for us and didn’t bring us to Mt. Sinai, it would have been enough. If He had brought us to Mt. Sinai and not brought us into the land of Israel, it would have been enough, etc.
This sense of overwhelming gratitude over the cascade of miracles that led to a people and a nation that has survived for thousands of years – this is what moves me tonight.
And I’m thinking – what would my personal Dayenu be if I were to write such a song now?
It might go something like this…
If I had been born a Jew, and not with loving parents, it would have been enough.
If I had been born of loving parents, and their parent’s parents had not sacrificed much of what they had, and left everything they knew, to come to America, it would have been enough.
If I had been born in America, and not at this remarkable, crazy time in history, it would have been enough.
If I had been born at this remarkable time, and not been given material blessings, and wonderful friends, and a brother with a good soul, it would have been enough.
If I had a brother with a good soul, and had not been given such a good woman to spend my life with, it would have been enough.
If I had been given a good woman to be by my side, and not the time and the freedom to learn, it would have been enough.
If I had been given the freedom to learn, and not the progressive heritage handed down from my mother, it would have been enough.
If we had been given this progressive heritage, and not a good person to take up that torch and carry it on, it would have been enough.
If there was a good person to carry it on, and he had never made it to the White House, it would have been enough.
If he had made it to the White House, and had not make a point of celebrating the Seder himself every year, it would have been enough.
If he had celebrated the Seder in the White House, and didn’t have the chutzpah to put his political butt on the line for the uninsured, it would have been enough.
If he had put his butt on the line and didn’t get it the bill passed, it would have been enough.
Wo – how did I get to that?! I didn’t expect to go there, but this is what my heart wants to say tonight. Oh yes, I feel a connection with history – thousands of years of struggle, tragedy and triumph. There is no distance in my mind between the long human history full of obstacles and overcoming, and the history we’re making now, the legacy we’re forging for the generations that follow us.
So yes, it’s a confusing, dizzying time we’re in. It’s easy to get lost. But that’s what history is for – to tell us which way the compass is pointing. It’s easy to lose faith at such a time. But this is not a time devoid of miracles, miracles all over the place.
This is not a perfect time, but it is enough.