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Those "Dayenu" Moments #723

04/22/2022 03:59:00 PM

Apr22

Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Pesach Day 7
Those "Dayenu" Moments

 

In April 2005, my wife Patte – manager of a large dementia unit at a Catholic-run hospital in Edmonton – emailed the adult children of Jewish residents.

She advised that on the following Sunday afternoon, her unit would be holding a Seder, and she needed their help to assist aides, nurses and managers in transferring residents to the multi-purpose room.

The response was rapid and less than supportive.

“What are you talking about?” responded one son. “Mom sleeps all day and she is barely aware of surroundings. She hardly recognizes me.”

“What’s the purpose?” wrote another. “All of this trouble preparing Dad – getting him into a wheelchair, pushing him in front of a table. For what?”

But Patte insisted, and a few days later, there we were with about 10 Jewish residents around the Seder table. Their children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren were there too.

Some residents slept or were slumped in their chairs. Some seemed barely aware of their surroundings. But Patte stuck to her plan.

She insisted that every Jew has the right to a Seder – to celebrate our journey as a Jewish people, and to confirm the continuity of families from generation to generation.

The abridged Seder began. Grandchildren sang the Mah Nishtana as their grandmothers and grandfathers passively listened.

And then something amazing occurred. When it came time for the Dayenu, we observed with awe, as every closed eye opened, every bent neck straightened, every buried memory came alive.

And we watched as each senior – written off as “active” Jews – awoke and joined or mouthed Dai Dayenu, Dai Dayenu, Dai Dayenu, Dayenu Dayenu.

One man lightly banged the table.

After Dayenu concluded, many gently faded back into their memories, several with soft smiles on their faces.

Patte and I still talk about this – the Dayenu of all Dayenus. For on that day, it was confirmed for all who attended, that there are many parts to our Jewish tradition, our identity, our memories, our lives which are permanently embedded within our “Daiyenai.”

It would have been enough to simply hold a Seder – Dayenu. But during those sacred moments, we observed the freedom which tradition, family, song and connection can inspire. Perhaps most of all, we witnessed hope.

It is hope and continuity that inspire the portion of the Seder we call Dayenu.

After mentioning each act – each gift from God – we exclaim, Dayenu – “It would have been enough,” not because we would have needed more, but that even one miracle, one blessing, inspires us to reflect that our complex – and often difficult lives – are ultimately worth it.

“When we are fortunate enough to experience a Dayenu moment,” noted Rabbi Joseph Dweck, “We are reminded deep in our hearts that our lives matter, our choices matter, taking a chance matters, and that even if it is but once in a lifetime, seeing it is knowing that it is indeed enough.”

During the past two years, we have been saddened by many Dayenu moments we have missed – a birth, a wedding, a funeral, hugging our loved ones, hosting or attending a large family Seder.

But we are now experiencing a time of renewal.

We understand that a Dayenu moment is as simple as a hug. Dayenu is a silent look across the table – at a relative or friend we haven’t embraced in two years. 

We have come to perhaps realize that past differences or varying political perspectives are not as important as family connections, health and life itself. 

Dayenu is the quiet feeling of relief that even though we need to stay safe and to protect ourselves from new variants – we are still here.

During these final days of Pesach, as we embrace liberation from the ultimate plague of our time, we remember that freedom is not so much what we are escaping from, but rather the direction we are moving towards.

It is that destination, which now calls upon us, now more than ever, to notice and appreciate those Dayenu moments. 

We have learned that some of the things that we obsessed about or divided us, are really not that important at all.

Like the residents of Patte’s dementia unit, we are awakening from our slumber.

Surviving the past two years would have been enough – but there is still so much for each of us to accomplish.

For every day is a blessing – with many Dayenu moments.

Yesterday, our office manager, Lauren, shared a family tradition: Every Passover, participants record their name, and write in their Haggadah a short recap of the year: Political climate, favorite Seder food, the gain or loss of family members, significant personal events – confirming in body and soul, "I was here for this Seder."

In so doing, in a tradition established 45 years ago by her mother, Lauren’s family creates a living history, and a legacy for future generations.

What is your unique Passover tradition?

Last week, as we attended the first Seder with my parents in Toronto, I noticed our daughter, Jessica, sitting on the floor with Bubbie looking at old photos of family members – many of whom have passed.

It was a Dayenu moment.

As we approach the end of Pesach, let us take a few moments to remember those who we spent previous Passovers with – their songs, their traditions, their smiles, their lives – and let us commit ourselves to renewal – to be better, more appreciative, more inspired – the way they believed we could be.

Thank you God, for our survival. Thank you God, for each day – for what we have learned – and for our renewed sense of freedom.

May we be worthy as we appreciate every breath, every hug, every precious moment together. 

Let us both remember the past and commit to the future – toward freedom, liberation and life.

Let us embrace how truly lucky we are.

Dayenu.

 

Chag Sameach. Happy Pesach. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Irwin Huberman

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Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782