By Rabbi Mark Glickman
(Calgary) – If only I had more books to read. If only I had nicer furniture to decorate my house. If only I had just a few more swanky outfits to wear when I go out on the town. If only I had a faster computer, a fancier car, and a bigger travel budget. If only I had one of those new iPhones, or a Chagall lithograph, or a bigger trust-fund for my kids, or a wrinkly shar-pei puppy.
If only we had any of those things, we often find ourselves saying, then our lives would be great. If only we had them…if only we had more.
Indeed, life for many of us these days seems to be an ongoing pursuit of more – more toys, more hi-tech bells and whistles, more “stuff” to fill what we fear would be our otherwise empty lives. In response, we might ask when we will hit our saturation points? When will we be satisfied? When will we have enough?
These are important questions for us Jews to ask at this time of year, because when we gather around our Passover Seder tables in mid-April (which, this year, is also mid-Nisan), we will sing about enoughness, and we’ll do so with gusto.
“Dayyeinu” is the song, and the title comes from a magnificent Hebrew term that takes seven words to translate into English: “It would have been enough for us.”
“If God had led us out of Egypt, but not brought justice to the Egyptians,” the song goes, “Dayyeinu – it would have been enough for us.” “If God had brought justice to the Egyptians but not to their gods, Dayyeinu – it would have been enough for us.” “If God had brought justice to their gods, but not…” you get the idea.
In fifteen interlinked verses, the song takes us through centuries of our people’s history, beginning with the Exodus from Egypt, and concluding with the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Each step, of course, left part of the work of redemption undone, but each step, the song reminds us, would have been enough for us. We would have been satisfied even if we didn’t have it all.
Dayyeinu. That one word, I believe, expresses a huge swath of our tradition’s sacred challenge. What will it take for us to feel satisfied? Can we be content with what we have, even when we are still left wanting? Can we be happy with our lives even when they remain imperfect? And most important, can we find causes for joy and celebration even in an imperfect world?
That one word – Dayyeinu – calls us to find a way to answer those questions with an enthusiastic and table-pounding “Yes!” We might not have the fancy new car, or the most advanced iPhone, or the big beautiful house, but life is nevertheless full of blessings. And when we see those blessings and celebrate them, we remember that a life of satisfaction often demands little more than a perspective of gratitude and appreciation.
So, when you sit at the Seder table and sing about the story of our people this year, remember that it is a story that, when told right, brings us not only to our Promised Land, but also to a sense of satisfaction and contentment that can truly be the fulfillment of our dreams.
Chag Pesach sameach! A very happy Passover to you all.
Rabbi Mark Glickman is the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Tikvah, Calgary’s Reform Jewish Congregation.