Passover is the holiday when Jews come together for Seder with families, friends and community to retell the core Jewish narrative which goes like this: We were slaves for over 400 years in Egypt, then God brought us out of Egypt “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” to become a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The Haggadah, the book which tells this powerful account of redemption through revelation, reminds us annually of our deep-rooted connection to God, freedom, community and Torah.
But this year, we are faced with an unprecedented challenge as we all look to find ways to navigate Passover in a Corona world. We are sad, frustrated, anxious, and angry about how this virus has altered all of our assumptions and realities, including the ability to celebrate with family and friends.
Social distancing requires us to forgo what we have cherished: we won’t serve matzah ball soup to our children and grandkids or pour wine into another’s glass as a symbol of our freedom. We won’t be able to kvell up close when the youngest child recites the four questions or give the little one who finds the afikomen a special gift.
The meaning of the Hebrew word “Seder” is order. The Haggadah recites a definite order of blessings, story-telling, questions, food and songs, which Jews worldwide have followed for thousands of years.
Is it a religious irony or a gift of spiritual inspiration that at a time when the world is in “freefall” and we have lost almost all control over the way we have previously lived, worked and navigated our lives, that we now celebrate a holiday that is designed to provide order to the meaning of our lives?
And perhaps even more significantly than providing a sense of order is what the Passover story offers us as an antidote to counter the fear, anxiety, and uncertainties that plague us today: a deep sense of gratitude for whatever we currently have.
During Seder, we sing Dayenu, a song that is over 1,000 years old. Translated from the Hebrew, it means “It would have been enough.” Dayenu is the quintessential Jewish gratitude song. It reminds us, over and over again, to stop and be grateful for whatever we have.
Dayenu teaches us to be aware of and appreciate what we have and to see each additional blessing as a gift, a bonus, from God.
We sing: “If God had brought us out of Egypt, and not punished the Egyptians, DAYENU!
If He had fed us manna in the desert but not given us Shabbat, DAYENU!
If He had brought us before Mt. Sinai but not given us the Torah, DAYENU!”
Its hard to imagine Jews saying it would have been enough had we not been given the Torah — and yet we do. Why? Because we thank God for each step of the journey and all that happens in between. Dayenu focuses our attention on what we have rather than what we lack or what we have lost.
This year many of us will be having Seder alone, or with just a few family members, or virtually through Facetime or Zoom. Wherever and however your Seder occurs, consider creating a Dayenu moment where you pause and express personal gratitude for something in your life. And even if it’s not the “Seder of years’ past,” we are still free and able to honor our faith, family and traditions. Dayenu!
Amy Hirshberg Lederman is an author, Jewish educator, public speaker, and attorney who lives in Tucson. Visit her website at www.amyhirshberglederman.com.