“Had He split the Sea for us but not led us through on dry land, it would have been enough. Had he led us through it on dry land, but not drowned our oppressors in it, it would have been enough. Had he drowned our oppressors in it but not provided for our needs in the desert for forty years, it would have been enough” (Dayenu section of the Haggadah).
How would that have helped? G-d takes us out of Egypt, and our escape route leads us to the Sea of Reeds. Our enemy is giving chase just a few hundred feet behind. We get to this massive body of water. We are waiting.
“Okay G-d, do your thing.”
It doesn’t split. What happens next? Sounds like a blood bath to me.
Or, scenario two: He does split the Sea and we continue our escape. But, He doesn’t drown our enemies in the Sea and they come out the other side and slaughter us over there.
It would have been enough? Really? Doesn’t sound like it to me.
Or, if He did drown our enemies in the Sea but then condemned us to forty years in the desert with no food or water, how long would we have lasted?
Can someone please explain to me what this song that I have been singing for my whole life means?
We are all on a journey, a process of growth towards self-actualization. But as soon as we feel like we are making progress and overcoming challenges, before we can even celebrate our victories, we are suddenly confronted with new situations that test our resolve. And we begin to wonder, are we making any headway or are we just running on a treadmill?
Dayenu teaches us that redemption happens in stages, not all at once. Self-actualization is a process of consecutive steps; each solving a problem only to give way a new set of challenges.
This is true on both a national level and on our personal journey of liberation.
Look back to June of 1967. Israel, fearing for its very existence, launches a defensive war and brings Egypt, Syria and Jordan to their knees in just six days. All of the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria were returned to our possession. Did anyone doubt that this was the Redemption that we have been praying for, for over 2,000 years?
But the euphoria of the Six Day War quickly gave way to the insecurity, chaos and instability that became the new, post-war reality.
Does that mean, in retrospect, that in fact this was not part of our national renaissance? Of course it doesn’t mean that. Redemption happens in stages and old dilemmas solved are replaced with predicaments anew. That is how growth and revitalization works.
In our own journey towards reclaiming our essence, we should be prepared to see progress and accomplishments followed by new challenges and tests. Instead of being discouraged, we should embrace these new difficulties and recognize them as the requisite growing pains of the journey.
Of course, had G-d led us out of Egypt but not split the Sea for us, or had He allowed our enemies to devour us on the other side of the sea, it would not have been enough. What Dayenu teaches us is how to recognize the Divine loving hand in the process of our redemption and how to express our gratitude for every step of the journey.
Have a wonderful Passover and may we all merit to experience true freedom.
Posted on: Sunday, April 9th, 2017
Author: Rabbi David
About: For more and more students in the Chicago area, Rabbi David is like a personal tour guide into the world of Jewish thought. He is passionate about elucidating timeless Jewish texts to the contemporary mind and leading each student on his or her own personal spiritual journey. His inspiring and insightful teaching style, coupled with his sense of humor and warm approach, has attracted hundreds of students since he began teaching on the North Shore 12 years ago. Rabbi David and Ali have five children, and currently reside in West Rogers Park in Chicago.