Dayenu 5781: Three Dimensions of “Time-Awareness” in the Lives of Jews

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 5781: Three Dimensions of “Time-Awareness” in the Lives of Jews

by Moshe Burt

Each year, for twenty-six years, and my twenty-third 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 5781, 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.

Upon completing the singing of “Dayenu,” we say, as rendered to English in “The Measure for Measure Haggadah” published by Mosad HaRav Kook (page 143):

“…How much more so should we be grateful to the Omni-present for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us: for He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgements against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us to Har Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the Land of Israel and built for us the Beit Hamikdash to atone for all our sins.”

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. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer, “Unlocking the Haggadah,” nails Moshe Shamir’s spirit in his Dayenu vort in citing (the Rav) Rabbi Joseph Solovichik (pages 13-14):

The Seder… captures the three dimensions of “time-awareness” identified by… (the Rav) Rabbi Joseph Solovichik as essential to the life of each Jew: retrospection, anticipation and appreciation:

Retrospection refers to man’s ability to re-experience the past, to feel deeply that which is only a memory, to transport an event of the distant past into a “creative living experience” of the present… The Seder itself is a recreation and a reliving of the past as a present reality. History becomes a part of our present time-awareness. Memory is more than a storehouse; it can become a present-day experience, a part of the “I” awareness.

Anticipation is man’s projection projection of visions and aspirations into the future… In anticipation, man moves from reminiscing to expectation, from memories to visions. To live fulfillingly in time requires both a worthy past and a promising future. Time awareness is not only for dreaming…. We derive from retrospection the moral imperative to act now in order to realize our visions for the future. The Haggadah opens with “Avadim hayinu, we were once slaves (retrospection)” and it concludes with “Nishmat kol Chai, the soul of every living thing,” which is an anticipatory vision of the future, moving from hindsight to foresight.

The third time-awareness dimension is appreciation, which means valuing the present and prizing each moment as a precious gift. Retrospection and appreciation are significant only insofar as they transform the present. In every fraction of a second, visions can be realized or destroyed. (Rabbi Goldin citing Abraham R. Besdin, Reflections of the Rav, Volume 1, Lessons in Jewish Thought — Adopted from the Lectures of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, pages 200-201 — Jerusalem: Jewish Agency, Alpha Press, 1979)

Time-awareness, the Rav concludes, is the “unique singular faculty of the free man who can use or abuse it. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Abraham R. Besdin, Reflections of the Rav, Volume 1, Lessons in Jewish Thought — Adopted from the Lectures of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, page 201) Only one who is free has the capacity to control his time. A slave’s time is controlled by others.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 14):

The Seder moves its participants beyond a celebration of freedom, toward recognition of the responsibilities that such freedom entails. The evening opens with retrospection, as before the Seder meal we trace the origins of our people from the the patriarchal era through the launching of the national era with the Liberation from Egypt. After the meal, we anticipate, envisioning our glorious march toward the days of Moshiach. And during the meal, we should strive to appreciate, to capture — through our discussions around the table — an understanding of our own unique place in the unfolding drama of Judaism’s history. The Seder teaches us that past, present and future must become one for the Jew, investing each moment with eternal significance. Only by injecting ourselves into the flow of our nations history can we each hope to fully realize our personal and communal responsibilities.

Here, then is the third, and arguably the most important level of the Seder experience. On this night, we do not simply perform a series of critical Mitzvot, nor do we limit ourselves to commemoration of one historical moment alone.

The ultimate goal of the Seder is much greater. On this night, we celebrate our history in its totality and commit ourselves to determining and fulfilling the role that we must play in its continued unfolding.

….On the festival when our national history began in earnest, we gather to understand what that history means to us and what we can mean to that history.

Or like this author quotes “Alf” of that old American TV series by the same name: “Be There, or Be Square!”

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael and celebrating their first Pesach with us. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.