by Dovi Siderson
(Passover 2022) – Children of any place learn to love where they come from. They love their culture, their friends, their families and their land. They love their sports teams, their bands and their tv shows.
Then these children turn into adults, and again, they love so fast. They love their new families and their new friends, their new lands and a changing culture. Love is hardwired into our being, it seems. We love quickly and we love intensely.
But we can also learn to hate. We become dissatisfied, in the status quo or in prospects of a different future. Just as often as children love their homes, children learn to hate their homes as teens, to be dissatisfied with what they have and where they’re from.
We live at the crossroads of these opposing dispositions. As Jews, we make Galut our home while we yearn for redemption; we passionately defend who we are and what we have, while we constantly strive for better and ask for more. These are not contradictory pulls; they are opposites, but they are complementary. Imagine being totally in love with the moment, unable to consider a better future: that’s no life. That’s stagnation. And in reverse, losing the moment out of passion for the future is no life either. We need both our intoxicating power of love, and our grounding sense of dissatisfaction. At that crossroads, we live and flourish.
This is for me the message of Dayenu. In this famous passage of the Haggadah, we exclaim our love for each stage of the journey out of Egypt: “And if you had taken us out of Egypt, but not split the sea… And if you had split the sea, but not drowned our enemies in it…” All these partial-stages of the story, we proclaim, would have been enough for us. We are humans; we can love what we have. A story of salvation, no matter how short or how bitter, would have been enough for us. We would still have sung thanks to Hashem, because we have the power to find love in whatever situation we find ourselves in.
But the intoxication of our love in Dayenu is not a standalone part of the Seder. The Maggid begins with “Ha Lachma Anya,” which includes a plea for a better future. The Seder concludes with the fervent “Next year in Jerusalem!” We are not satisfied with what we have, whatever the message of Dayenu. We want more, we need more. Though Dayenu extolls us to love what we have, we recognise that, so long as we are in exile, we are not truly free.
Thus, the Seder of Galut itself exists at that critical crossroads between love and dissatisfaction. We spend an entire night singing praise to God on account of our freedom; yet we recognize that we are not truly free, that final redemption has yet to be achieved. This is the locus of progress: we cannot find final redemption if we do not appreciate the freedom we do have; and neither can we be redeemed, if we do not recognize that we need to be.
With that in mind, I wish us all a happy, Kosher Pesach. May we have the strength of mind and spirit to properly recognize the freedom we have, but not forget the redemption that is to come.