By Rabbi Hal Schevitz
Congregation Or Atid
One of the most well-known moments of the Pesach Seder is the song “Dayeinu,” with its timeless tune and endless chorus.
Dayeinu literally means “it would have been enough for us,” and the song is an exercise in gratitude, with each step on Israel’s journey from Egyptian slavery to freedom and worship at the Jerusalem Temple. “If God had only brought us out of Egypt, it would have been enough…,” “ If God had only brought us to Sinai, it would have been enough…,” etc. The song is a corrective to Israel’s well-known complaining along the journey, as illustrated in the Torah and the Psalms’ retelling of the Exodus.
There is also meaning in the structure of the song. There are 15 steps to the song (in 14 verses), which parallel the 15 steps of the Seder. Dayeinu’s 15 steps also relate to the 15 Psalms known as the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), and the 15 literal steps in the ancient Temple that led from the outer court to the inner court.
Dayeinu is a microcosm of our journey from slavery to freedom, from servitude to redemption, all framed through the lens of gratitude.
It is also important to recall Seders during times of persecution: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the well-known make-shift Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto — the night before the famous uprising began in 1943. Imagine singing Dayeinu in a time of exile and persecution, when Jews recalled their ancestors’ journey, even when they mourned the destruction of the Temple, longed for a return to Zion, and lived in times of mortal danger.
Our moments of challenge are miniscule in comparison to these. As we all know, last year’s Pesach was difficult, as we had just shut everything down. This year will seemingly be as challenging, but we at least have the experience of holding a distanced Pesach celebration.
Last year, I composed a Dayeinu for the moment, an updated version of which I present here:
If we had our health, but not a roof over our head – Dayeinu
If we had a roof over our head, but no toilet paper in the house – Dayeinu
If we had toilet paper in the house, but no food in our refrigerators and pantries – Dayeinu
If we had food in our refrigerators and pantries, but no electricity in our homes – Dayeinu
If we had electricity in our homes, but no phone or internet – Dayeinu
If we had phone or internet, but no ability to video chat with our family and friends – Dayeinu
If we had the ability to video chat with our family and friends, but have not yet had the vaccine – Dayenu
If we have not yet had the vaccine, but are scheduled to get it – Dayeinu
If we have had the vaccine, but still cannot gather in person with family and friends for Seder – Dayeinu
Chag Same’ach! A joyous Pesach to all!