“If God had given us the State of Israel…dayeinu”/5772
The Edythe Benjamin, çéä áú ùìîä, beloved mother of Barbara Hanus, Rosh Hodesh Iyar Torah Essay
Atara Snowbell is a lecturer at Matan, and holds a Masters Degree in Bible and Exegesis from Matan and Haifa University. She is a freelance writer and professional translator, and an active Halakhic Advisor (Yoetzet halakha) in her community. She resides in Alon Shevut with her husband and four children.
“If God had given us the State of Israel…dayeinu”
by Atara Snowbell
One of the major lessons of Pessach is expressed in the piyut “Dayeinu” which we recite on Seder night. The piyut refers to the various stages of the process of redemption, and acknowledges the significance of each one by remarking “dayeinu” – if the process would have stopped here, this would have been sufficient.
Clearly the piyut cannot be taken literally, since there is no point in being saved if one will not survive the liberation. If G-d had “split the sea, but not allowed us to pass through on dry land,” we would have been killed by the Egyptians; would this really have sufficed? Rather, the idea expressed in "dayeinu" is that one can show complete appreciation for each stage, while looking forward at the same time. This emphasizes the concept of appreciating a partial redemption, or a redemption which is incomplete.
The piyut does not end before mentioning stages which go beyond the scope of what we celebrate on Seder night – walking through the desert, receiving the Torah, entering Israel, and building the Temple. These final stages of redemption only emphasize the fact that the grand celebration on Pessach night is the celebration of an incomplete process. On the 15th of Nissan the nation of Israel would have been out of Egypt, on the threshold of the desert, with no food or water, disoriented and lost. But the redemption of a nation of slaves from the hands of their oppressors, despite the uncertainty regarding the future, is cause for celebration.
The celebration of Pessach is thus not a celebration of geula – redemption – but rather a celebration of the potential of geula. This concept is prevalent in all celebrations of the Jewish life cycle. We do not celebrate accomplishments in our religious life; instead, we celebrate potential. The birth of a baby and his entry into the covenant of Avraham is not an accomplishment; the accomplishment would be the raising of a mentch like Avraham, and yet we celebrate a Brit Milla. Becoming Bar or Bat Mitzva and entering a stage of obligation in mitzvot is not an accomplishment; the accomplishment would be looking back at a life of Torah and mitzvot at the end of one’s life; yet we celebrate becoming Bar and Bat Mitzva. Even marriage is not a real accomplishment – the success of a long-lasting marriage should be celebrated instead of a wedding. Just like Pessach, all of these are celebrations of potential, of stages in an incomplete process.
The celebration of potential gives us the strength and encouragement we need to continue the process and strive higher; it also emphasizes G-d’s hand and human effort in each and every stage. Our debt of gratitude and appreciation relate to each step and stage separately, not only to the end of the process. By celebrating steps toward realizing a goal, even before the goal has been achieved, we teach ourselves to appreciate each step of the way, and motivate ourselves and others who contribute to the process to push forward.
This idea, demonstrated by the very celebration of Pessach, is especially important to internalize as we move into the month of Iyar and the two celebrations of incomplete redemption within this month. Yom Ha’atzmaum and Yom Yerushalayim are perfectly in-sync with the concept of Jewish celebration: they are both days in which we step back and appreciate the beginning of the road. 64 years after Israel’s independence we are more aware than ever how long and hard we will have to fight to achieve our goals. However, this awareness does not exempt us from celebrating the important stage of gaining independence, which provided us with the opportunity to work hard toward achieving those goals. Our celebration of the incomplete redemption gives us the strength and perspective we need to keep working toward achieving the greater goal of complete geula. Here too we can recite the words of the piyut, “If G-d had brought us into Israel…dayeinu,” or alternately add our own verse: “If G-d had given us the State of Israel…dayeinu!”
no name (4/22/2012)
Very insightful! It´s a shame many people can´t appreciate the concept of "Dayenu as well as you, and think that there´s nothing to celebrate since the Geula is incomplete
no name (4/22/2012)
goosebumps- love this
no name (4/22/2012)
Excellent, Atara! Thank you for putting these amazing thoughts and process into my head!