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Dayenu

March 31, 2010

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.

Dayenu.

Today’s Joygasm:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

And if I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when?” 

—  Hillel (110 B.C — 10 A.D.) (If you get to be this wise, you too may live 120 years!)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2010 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the prayers, Charley. These are helpful thoughts for those of us who bear witness to this collapsing empire- which has coveted way too much at the expense of too many, for the benefit of too few…

  2. Jennifer Pugliese permalink
    March 31, 2010 6:18 pm

    Charley your blog made me think of this poem that I had read. It goes like this:

    By Blkjewelz8960
    Posted June 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm · 35 replies
    Shared with the public
    11

    RecommendationsRecommendPrintReport postENOUGH:

    Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged, and the mother said, ‘I love you, and I pray you enough.’

    The daughter replied, ‘Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I pray you enough, too, Mom.’

    They kissed, and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry.. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’

    Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?’

    ‘Well…I’m not as young as I once was, she lives so far away & has her own busy life. I have some challenges ahead, and the reality is – her next trip back will be for my funeral,’ she said.

    ‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I pray you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’

    She began to smile. ‘That’s a prayer that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.’ She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I pray you enough,’ we wanted the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’

    Then, turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory.

    I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

    I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

    I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

    I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

    I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

    I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

    I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

    Take care:)

  3. April 1, 2010 5:30 am

    Thank you, Jennifer. That’s quite touching.

  4. April 8, 2010 5:37 pm

    Had you only listed 5 things, that would have been enough. Had you listed 5 things, mentioned your brother, AND me, that really would have been plenty.

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