Dayenu 5779: Family, Community and Personal Responsibility — Seeing the Big Picture

Shalom Friends;

This year’s Pesach vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch and family of Efrat dedicated lilui nishmas for his Father: Mordechai ben Avraham Aba and Sara and for his Mother: Sara Rotza bat Tzion bat Avraham Yaakov and Chaya Leah. To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Dayenu 5779: Family, Community and Personal Responsibility — Seeing the Big Picture

by, Moshe Burt

This year will mark twenty-four years, and my twenty-first Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, in which I have emailed this rendition of Dayenu quoted from the book “Dear Brothers” by former Arutz Sheva columnist Haggai Segal, as it has become tradition with me from prior to my Aliyah.

Each year, this author tries to touch on factors, insights and lessons, learned or needing relearning, which affect the state of B’nai Yisrael — right here and right now.

As we approach Pesach 5779, it seems to this author that this quoted rendition of “Dayenu” is as vital now as it was in the first year that I emailed this vort out or, for that matter, as vital as when it was quoted in Segal’s compilation of the book in its copyright year 1988.

In the Book “Dear Brothers”, the story is told how Pesach 5728 (1968) was approaching when the first group of Pioneers endeavored to establish themselves in Chevron. Among this 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 and at the Seder:

“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 [before the 6-day War — MB] 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.

In his vort at that first Pesach Seder in Hevron, Moshe Shamir spoke about generations of Jews settling for what was and is, rather than aspiring to achieve further and seizing opportunities to fulfill these further aspirations.

But today, it seems that not only is there the tendency not to aspire further, but to actually give up, back-slide, to not only relinquish that already achieved, but to possibly project hypocrisy in the eyes of the nations rather than the light of Hashem’s nation.

While this author’s citing from the sefer, “Dear Brothers” focuses on an aspect of Pesach: Dayenu, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, writes in an introduction to his sefer on the Haggadah, “Unlocking the Haggada”:

…When it comes to the Haggada and the Seder experience, the issue is the big picture — the picture that emerges only when we consider the overall goals of the Seder evening and understand how the Haggadah enables their realization. No moment on the Hebrew calendar is fraught with more significance and meaning than the first evening of the Pesach festival. In home after home, … generation after generation, families of Jews of all stripes and backgrounds have gathered on this evening to mark the first footfalls of their national journey.

A fundamental problem, however, arises out of the very character of the Haggadah itself. So rich is this text in wonderful detail that it is easy to lose sight of the big picture and to be captured by the nuances of the Seder service at the expense of its overall vision. When that happens, the carefully planned Seder evening becomes a series of disjointed ritual events, each beautiful and significant in its own right, but lacking a coherent flow and plan. (introduction to Rabbi Goldin’s “Unlocking the Haggada”, page vii)

Rabbi Goldin poses questions and provides an overview regarding the Seder’s critical components and primary obligations (“Unlocking the Haggada”, pages 1-4):

What motivated the Rabbis to create the Seder as we know it today? What are its critical components? Are all of the Seder’s rituals of equal importance? Do they all emerge from a common time and origin? Bottom line, what are the primary obligations to be fulfilled on the Seder night?

At its most basic, the Seder serves as the vehicle for the performance of six (or seven) fundamental mitzvot, all specific to the first night of Pesach. Each of these mitzvot is independent and emerges from its own unique source. The Rabbis… weave their fulfillment into a coherent whole through the medium of the Seder. Many other rituals populate the evening’s experience. However, these six (or seven) obligations remain the primary components of the Seder.

….Two of the mitzvot of the Seder evening [consumption of Matzah and retelling of the story of Yetziyot Mitzrayim] are biblically mandated to this day. The origin of another [Hallel] is the subject of debate, while two others [consumption of four cups of wine and reclining while eating] are clearly of rabbinic derivation. One of the evening’s requirements [maror – the bitter herbs] originates as a biblical directive, but loses its biblical character over time and is performed today as a rabbinic obligation. Finally, a last ritual [charoset – chopped mixture of apples, other fruits and wine] is of questionable origin with the rabbis debating whether it is an independent mitzvah at all.

Just a note regarding the critical components and primary obligations of Seder night, this author presumes that the Korban Pesach, to be taken and – as the song goes — tied to the bedpost overnight on the 10th of Nissan, seems not included in the group of six (or seven) fundamental mitzvot of the Seder due to the lack of the Beit Hamikdash.

Rabbi Goldin next presents a historical perspective on the Seder night with emphasis on the Korban Pesach and its impact regarding a social blueprint for formation of family and its vital importance to Jews, as well as forming community and forging personal responsibility (“Unlocking the Haggada”, pages 5-8):

From a historical perspective, the Seder can be seen as a recreation of a powerful moment, critical to the birth of B’nei Yisrael. Contrary to what we would expect, however, the moment recreated at the Pesach Seder is not of the Yetziyot Mitzrayim itself.

If the Seder is designed to be a recreation of the actual Yetziyot Mitzrayim, therefore, it should be marked at high noon on the fifteenth day of Nissan, the first day of Pesach. Instead, across the generations, Jews have gathered in their homes on Pesach Eve to re-experience the night before the Yetziyot Mitzrayim.

Historically, the Jews in Mitzrayim marked that night, at Hashem’s command, by retreating to the safety of their homes in extended family groups. There, each group consumed a Korban Pesach while, outside their doors, the final plague [maka of death of Mitzri first born] rained down upon the Mitzrayim. Centuries later, we mirror their actions [as] we join in family groups for the Seder, commemorating the moment when our ancestors prepared for an unknown future through the consumption of their first ritual family meal.

A critical layer of meaning can be uncovered in the rituals surrounding the first Korban Pesach.

[Torah] text reveals that the instructions concerning the first Korban Pesach unfold in three stages, ritualistically outlining a three-stage societal blueprint by which the emerging B’nei Yisrael nation is to be built:

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month [Nissan] they shall take for themselves, each man, a lamb for each father’s house, a lamb for the household [The first and foremost pillar of society in Judaism is the family unit]. And if the household shall be too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor who is near to his home shall take [Moving beyond the family unit, the text arrives at the second foundation of society in Judaism: the community] according to the number of people; each man according to his ability to eat shall be counted for the lamb [Finally, Torah reminds us that no individual can escape the obligations raised in the third societal foundation: personal responsibility].'” (Rav Goldin citing Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posukim 3-4)

Remember always that your survival will depend upon the health of the family. If the family is strong, if the home fulfills its educational role, your people will be strong and your nation will endure.

By recognizing the vulnerabilities, rights and dreams that we and our neighbors all share, we will be moved to assist those around us to reach their goals, even as we strive to achieve our own.

Hashem… demands that the computation concerning the size of each Korban Pesach be based on the full participation of all involved in that Korban. Our national aspirations will be fully met only if “each man” performs “according to his ability.”

Gathering in their homes on the first Pesach Eve in our nation’s history, our ancestors ritually underscored the three societal foundations that would make their nation’s journey enduring. Centuries later, we commemorate that moment by underscoring the very same foundations. We gather in extended family units in the comfort of our homes; we invite others to join us, even formalizing our invitation through the recitation of a special paragraph (Ha lachma anya); and we encourage the personal participation of each and every individual at the Seder, young and old alike.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Yom Tov, Good Shabbos! Chag Kosher V’Some’ach and, remember: BE THERE at the Pesach Seder!
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.