This year will mark seventeen years, and my fourteenth Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, in which I have emailed, as it has become tradition with me from prior to my Aliyah, the rendition of Dayenu quoted from the book “Dear Brothers.” In each year, Dayenu holds a unique perspective, unlike the perspective of any previous year.
Each year, this author tries to put forth factors that relate to the state of B’nai Yisrael — right here and right now.
And so, the lessons of Dayenu are vital now, just as they were in the first year that I emailed this vort out or, for that matter, as vital as they were when it was quoted in Segal’s compilation of the book in its copyright year 1988.
As we approach Pesach 5772, we take time again to ponder this brief section about Dayenu and wonder what tests of emunah Hashem will toss our way as a Klal which might approach or exceed his tests of our forefathers in Mitzrayim; i.e., taking the Mitzri avodah zora — that parody about “Tying the Korban Pesach to the Bedpost Overnight”, then slaughtering it, and applying its blood to our doorposts so that the Moloch HaMavet passes over our Jewish homes… and eating it at the Seder table on the night before going out from Mitzriyim. Are we there? Can we place our mindsets there?
Approaching nearly any Shul after after Maariv, just the final Kaddish, one is struck by the mass exodus. Are we really there? Are we really into having that personal dialogue with Hashem three times daily? Or, are we merely, one-two-six, carrying out the by-rote rabbinic injunction and obligation? And similarly, at the Pesach Seder, Are WE really there? Can we feel and understand how it was to be in Mitzrayim, how it was to live through the generations following the death of Yosef HaTzaddik and through the evolution of the enslavement and persecution of B’nai Yisrael by Pharoah and the Mitzriyim? As we make the primary focus of our Pesach Seder experience toward the young children, are we still able to direct the Seder experience in such a way as to instill, among the other age segments around the Seder table, insghts and transplantation such that they feel as if they are/were there and experiencing the dire pain of their ancestors?
What tests akin to the Korban Pesach, or Kri’yat Yom Suf (crossing the Reed Sea) does Hashem have in mind us this Pesach, as Moshiach approaches B’ezrat Hashem, to test OUR mettle, both individually and as a kehal, as a nation, as Jews? Do we have the backbone, the “fire in the belly” to stand up and physically express in a multitude of ways our sovereignty and our ownership of Eretz Yisrael? Do we have the inner strength and gumption to do right by our fellow Jews? Are the modern-day tests akin to the tests, the challenges our brethren faced in the day of Pharoah and Mitzrayim?
In the Book “Dear Brothers”, the story is told how Pesach 5738 (1968) was approaching when the first group of Pioneers endeavored to establish themselves in Chevron. Among this hearty group were Rabbis Haim Druckman, Eliezer Waldman, Moshe Levinger, Shlomo Aviner and others.
We pick up the story as the participants, “Sixty people sat down to that historical first Seder…” in Chevron:
“Another participant was the author Moshe Shamir, formerly affiliated with the leftist Hashomer Hatzair(the Young Guard). As he did with each of the celebrants during the Seder, Rabbi Druckman asked Shamir to make some comments appropriate to the festival. The others braced themselves for the minor unpleasantness that was sure to result…”
But at every Seder since then; other guests have repeated the Drosh that Moshe Shamir delivered that first Passover Seder in Chevron and so I try to give it over each year to my friends and relatives on Pesach via the Internet:
“The fourteen verses in the song Dayenu (It would have sufficed) have drawn the attention of the commentators throughout the ages. Why should we imply that we could forgo even one of the gifts given to us by Hashem three thousand years ago? How would we have gotten along at all without every one of them? The truth is that this part of the Haggadah has only one aim: to teach us how each and every generation of Jews tends to settle for the achievements of the past, to settle for what its forefathers had accomplished — and to rest on its laurels, with no aspiration for anything not achieved thus far. We, too, right here have that same tendency to say Dayenu — ‘It would have sufficed for us.’ The State of Israel? Dayenu. Unified Jerusalem and liberated Hebron ? Dayenu. Wasn’t it just last year at the Seder that we said, ‘If Hashem had given us Israel but had not given us Jerusalem and Hebron — dayenu? That’s why we’ve got to know that we’ll be facing many more ‘dayenus’ until we reach full redemption.”
The book recounts that Rabbi Druckman stood up and kissed Shamir’s forehead.
The commentary in the Artscroll Pesach Haggadah cites the Malbim and speaks about Dayenu in this way;
“…The bondage of our forefathers was two-fold — physical and spiritual — and so was their redemption. The physical bondage came to an end on Pesach night, but the spiritual redemption reached it’s climax only with the building of the Temple and Hashem’s self-revelation in his sanctuary.”
“Every step on the road to this ultimate goal was a further act of Divine kindness to us, a further revelation of Hashem’s majesty. That’s why we give thanks for each …favor (MB; kindness) bestowed upon us. For every single step, we say Dayenu — it would have sufficed by itself to give our thanks (attributed to Malbim).”
This does not mean that any one step would have sufficed by itself to bring us to our goal. It does mean, however, that each of the happenings of Yetziyat Mitzrayim, Giving of Torah at Har Sinai, the travels through Bamidbar, entry of the Jewish People into Eretz Yisrael through to the building of the Beit HaMikdash “represented a new remarkable miracle — …that Hashem need not have performed these miracles if he had not seen a particular purpose for each.
Dayenu seems to mean recognizing the great chessed that Hashem has done for us with every gift that he has given to the Jewish people from Yetziyat Mitzrayim until now as well as the chessed inherent in the gifts yet to come — B’Ezrat Hashem; Moshiach, Ge’ula Shlaima, Torah leadership and government and an end to the current cruel, often brutal, heartless, totalitarian, dictatorial rulers.
In our time, the road continues for B’nai Yisrael. Entebbe, Israel’s successful bombing of the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor, Gulf War 1, The 10 1/2 years of the continuing “Oslo” War, 9/11, the bombings of a Syrian nuclear site as well as bombings of military convoys in the Sudan carrying military contraband to terrorists in Gaza, and other such events, as well as ever-growing concern about Iranian Nuclear Reactor and developments, the Roadmap/Separation wall/Expulsion/Annapolis machinations of recent and current governments of Israel … — these are physical, political national road.
And the spiritual road leading to Jewish self-esteem?? It seems travelled by way of our kavanah (intent) and ratzon (desire) in our tefillos, our Avodat Hashem and common decency toward our fellow Jews — V’ahavtah L’rei’cha Komocha as existed amongst B’nai Yisrael even in the depths of Mitzri enslavement, as well as by way of the strength of our convictions regarding Emunah in Hashem and by striving for the perceived “unachievable”; both inward and outward expressions and manifestations of limitless love for our fellow Jew and for our Holy Land.
But an indispensable key to the spiritual road is our chessed — not just throwing money at a need, but expressing our chessed through kindnesses done for our fellow Yid in need, even in the Eikev Mitzvot — like providing a fellow Yid with change for a 10 shekel piece in the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
We tend to function, each in our own domain first and foremost. We operate out of expediency — with speed-of-light Davening, at the place of business, dealing with our families. We, in our autos, speed past our brother, ignoring his welfare or that he has his finger out to go exactly where you are going. We see our brother running to catch a bus and don’t make an effort, on his behalf, to get the driver to wait that extra second. We flatly refuse to help a brother in even the smallest of ways, like mall vendors who refuse to make change for their fellow who is stuck with a ten shekel piece, or 2 fives for want of a single shekel. And we are given excuses and rationalizations for this refusal, i.e., how they live such a hard life in Israel. A hard life?? A hard life?? Are they slaves with a quota of bricks each day and no straw to produce them?
Are they beaten unmercifully with whips? In Mitzrayim even then, a Jew reached out to help another Jew. But in modern-day Israel, Israeli merchant after Israeli merchant flatly refuse to reach into one’s cash register, or pocket, to make change for a Jewish pedestrian’s 10 shekel piece. And we seem, often at the hghest communal levels, to turn a blind-eye and deaf ear to domestic or child abuse, criminality in the neighborhood, etc.
Instead we give our brother a blank countenance, or a state of indifference and/or blunt insensitivity as we are only self-concerned. We are not totally forthcoming and truthful with our brother concerning the facts of a business or banking transaction often putting “obstacles in the way of the blind” as we grub for that last shekel at the other guy’s expense. We give and take bribes — protexia at all levels, if it’ll increase our personal influence, our place in history or our position on “the bottom line.” And we, both here in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz L’Aretz, seem blase’ about OUR Land — Eretz Yisrael, so much so that we continue, business as usual, even as we are in mortal danger from the external Arab/Islamic foe, as well as successive evil regimes controlling affairs of state who turn a blind eye and deaf ear to their constituency, their fellow Jews. Each sector among us seemingly has an agenda working against every other group thereby dividing us all and letting the evil ones “divide and conquer.”
We’ve lost our sense of unity of national purpose — the bond that in the past held us together as one such that an attack on my brother in Hevron, in Beitar, by Arab forklift drivers in Jerusalem, in the Golan or in Ramat Aviv Bet, on a Mall in Haifa, or massacres such as took place in Adura in 2002, or in Itamar last year would previously been felt by all to have been an attack upon ME — and I would get my dander and do something about it.
We’ve lost our sense of unity of national purpose of which all of our sectarian differences, prejudices, etc. were heretofore subordinate and subserviant.
Having read the sefer “Let My Nation Go” by Yosef Deutsch, it is interesting that, after some 402 pages of describing the evolvement of the Jewish enslavement in Mitzrayim, Moshe’s birth and time in Pharaoh’s palace, Hashem’s placement of leadership upon Moshe, the Divine Makkot upon the Mitzriyim, Hashem’s release of B’nai Yisrael from enslavement and finally, the crossing of the Yom Suf (the sea) with Pharaoh and the Mitzriyim in full pursuit — on the sefer’s final couple of pages, Deutsch indicates that when the Jews saw the dead Mitzriyim float up to the surface with all of their riches and booty, there were some among them who had the unmitigaated chutzpah to suggest that with all the booty in their possession, they should go back and take over Egypt.
The sefer “Let My Nation Go”, and indeed the Pesach seder, also holds within an important lesson for the Jews in Chutz L’Aretz. That lesson is how the 70 beings who went down to Mitzrayim with Yaakov Aveinu grew, mushroomed and evolved into viewing that residence as their permanent home, due to their understanding (passed on from prior generations) of 400 years of residence in Mitzrayim. The lesson is how assimilation — calling their country of residence “home”, thus conforming to and melding into the general population losing our Jewish identity, spirituality and connection in the process. It is a lesson inherent in the Pesach seder and one which seems an imperative, as fundamental an imperative as that ALL Jews belong being in Eretz Yisrael — our biblical, historical homeland and the only place where a Jew can live feeling spiritually and Jewishly whole and completed.
And so, there is the old adage that a Government is but a mirror image of the people it leads. I hold that the purity, intent, desire and freshness of our Tefillah, Avodah, Mitzvot and awareness of OUR unique relationship with Hashem, as well as our outward displays of unity and love for our brethren are directly related to Dayenu. These outward displays of unity would be manifested by fighting the current anti-Torah, cruel decrees of evil regimes and the modern-day medina’s mega-evil “justice system” in every way in order that every believing Jew grasp the true extent of the evil being contemplated against them. While today’s modern-medina’s cruel decrees and evil “justice system” may not even closely reach the depth of Mitzri cruelty, dire persecution and enslavement, “being there” at the Pesach Seder and thus feeling the generation’s pain and agony may provide us with lessons of perspective and new strength to stand-up and face today’s anti-Torah cruelty straight-on.
As writer Moshe Shamir said years ago in his little Pesach vort;
“That’s why we’ve got to know that we’ll be facing many more ‘dayenus’ until we reach full redemption.”
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Yom Tov! Chag kosher V’Same’ach!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.