The Word: Dayenu

As it’s near Passover, this installation of The Word is a Hebrew word that is also a prayer and a song. Dayenu is a combination of “enough” and “to us” and is most often translated “it would have been enough.” It hails from the 9th century Haggadah, and it has been sung for generations since as a way of thanking God for God’s abundant care. If God had just freed us from slavery, it would have been enough. If God had only parted the Red Sea, it would have been enough. But the combination of all of these stanzas recalling all that God has done? It’s a testament to abundance and goodness, and it’s sung with a heart of gratefulness.

Though “Dayenu” is closely tied to Passover, it’s a song for all seasons. It’s a lifestyle, a practice, a paradigm. It’s a way of living life with deep gratitude, realizing how much more God has done than would have been necessary.

Note: this is NOT a gratefulness that has human shame on the other side of it. The song does not say, or imply, “Wow, God, we are so terrible and unworthy, we can’t believe you’d pay any attention to us at all.” Judaism is not Calvinistic, you guys. ;) ┬áIt’s rather a way of saying, “You promised to be our God, and bringing us into the promised land would have been enough, but then you gave us Torah.” Or, “You could have just given us creation, but you gave us Sabbath, too.” The song is not focused on us and whether we deserve God’s blessings or not. It’s focused on how beautifully and fully and abundantly God has fulfilled God’s promise of care.

As we move toward Passover and Holy Week, there will be much of the shadows. But there is love, too. There is hope, and resistance. There is a way God opens up possibility in what we would have considered dead ends, whether tyrannical slavery or death at the hands of a powerful empire. It would have been enough for God to be with us, but the way God chooses to be with us in the events of Passover and Holy Week is utterly incomprehensible abundance.

Dayenu, indeed.


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