July 18, 2024
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Dayeinu and Tootsie Rolls

Those of you who may have reached a more mature age may remember, as I do, the childhood exercise of reading the ingredients on a candy bar to see if we could eat it.

“Let’s see…hmmm. ‘Vegetable shortening’—well, that’s good. Do I have to have pure vegetable shortening or not?”

“Ooooo, ‘artificial flavors and colors’—well, nothing wrong with that, I guess.”

Of course we have become far more sophisticated and knowledgeable in kashrut matters and we realize now that there are so many variables in the makeup of a food product that foods are acceptable only with reliable supervision. I had often thought of this while teaching my middle school students. I would share with these young adult students how fortunate they were to have Hershey’s and Nestle’s and even M&Ms available to them. Yet, inevitably, there was a voice raised in protest:

“Yeah, but why can’t we have Tootsie Rolls?” (At that time, they still had no kashrut certification.)

It was, what I called, “The syndrome of original Man,” a disorder I’m sure you’ve all experienced. God told Adam “You may eat from every tree in the garden.” Adam could have it all. Nothing would be denied to him except…that one tree! And you know what he wanted? What he just “had to have?” The fruit from that one tree! The Tootsie Roll of the Garden of Eden!

And you know who else suffered from that syndrome? The wicked Haman! Think about it. Everybody bowed down to him. All the nobles and servants in the king’s court kowtowed to the great Haman. But he wasn’t happy. Because there was this one Jew…Well, you know the story.

But in studying the Haggadah, I feared that its authors may have been blind to this widespread syndrome.

“Day, dayeinu, Day, dayeinu, Day, dayeinu, Dayeinu, Dayeinu.”

One of the favorite parts of the Seder.

“It would have been enough!” Yes, God, it would have been enough for us had you but taken us out of Egypt—that alone would have satisfied us! And yet you did so much more!

That is what we claim at our Seder.

Really?

It would have been enough??

Uhhh, remember, Tootsie Rolls!!

Would we really have been satisfied were we to have been “dumped off” in the desert and left to fend for ourselves??

Weren’t the editors of the Haggadah familiar with the temperament of our nation???

We would have been satisfied??

I‘m not so sure.

So perhaps we would do ourselves a favor and try to better understand the true message this popular chant delivers to us. Because a closer analysis of the Haggadah will lead us to the conclusion that we might very well have been misinterpreting this well-known poem, and as a result, we really have not understood its message or its import.

In actuality, the authors were not telling God that “it would have been enough” or that “we would have been satisfied.”

Or that He didn’t have to do any more for us.

Not at all. They were telling us, the reader, the Jews, that “it is more than enough!” That is, it is more than enough reason for us to sing praises to God! And that any one of the kindnesses that Hashem showered upon us in Egypt would have sufficed to obligate us to thank Him and to praise Him!

It is a song reminding us to stop complaining about the lack of Tootsie Rolls!

For when we look at the events of the exodus one at a time, miracle by miracle, we must realize how many reasons we have for which to thank God.

It is precisely for this reason that we begin to recite the Hallel soon after Dayeinu.

Dayeinu is actually an introduction to our praising Hashem!

But besides the obligation to thank Hashem, this prayer does something else as well: It teaches us a crucial lesson, one especially important for our generation.

It tells us that Redemption is a process. It takes place step by step, miracle by miracle.

That being so, we must also understand that geula, the redemption, takes time.

And unless we pause to perceive the extraordinary steps we have gone through, unless we step back to understand the remarkable progress we have made and unless we realize the myriad of kindnesses God has done for us—we will fail to recognize how much we need to thank God.

And if this happens, we will never understand our need to sing the Hallel and we will never be satisfied!

For this reason, I believe that perhaps it is time for us to add some lines to Dayeinu, or at least consider these additions when sitting around the Seder table:

“Had You provided refuge to our survivors and not given us an independent State…Dayeinu

“Had You given us a State and not blessed us with visionary leaders…Dayeinu

“Has You granted us visionary leaders but not inspired courageous soldiers…Dayeinu

“Had You inspired courageous soldiers but not helped us absorb millions of immigrants…Dayeinu

“Had You helped us absorb immigrants but not have the desert bloom…Dayeinu”

And on and on…

“…but not given us the highest percentage of scientists in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not given us the highest percentage of engineers in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not given us the highest percentage of PhDs in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not given us the highest percentage of physicians in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not given us the largest number of start-ups in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not let us have the more museums per capita than any other nation…Dayeinu

“…but not granted us more orchestras per capita than any other nation…Dayeinu

“…but not taught us to publish more books per capita than any other nation…Dayeinu

“…but not developed the most productive dairy cows in the world…Dayeinu

“…but not given us a most powerful army…

“…but not given us the third most stable economy in the world…

“…but not given us the ability to provide medical, economic and agricultural aid to suffering nations…

Dayeinu, Dayeinu, Dayeinu!!!

Enough, Enough, Enough!!!

We have so many reasons to thank You!

My friends, we do not live in a simple world or at simple time. Listening to the daily news reports, reading the newspapers and watching the TV news can give us a very twisted view of the events taking place in the Holy Land where we are privileged to live.

As a result, we are too often blinded to the blessings that surround us all day and every day. We are led to see the negative and not the positive. We complain about the lack while failing to appreciate excess.

So that we, like my students, complain because we don’t have Tootsie Rolls!

In the special haftarah we read on the Shabbat before Pesach the prophet Malachi says a remarkable thing. Although the Torah warns us not to “test God,” the navi tells us that God Himself challenges us to do just that!

He promises great reward to His people and then He tells them: “Now go and test me regarding this promise.”

And He goes on to make the following remarkable promise:

“See whether, when the nation returns, I don’t open up the ‘windows’ in heaven…”

And, listen carefully, “…and ‘empty out’ my storehouse of goodness and shower you with blessing…” “ad b’li dai”— “…that is unending!”

In analyzing the prophetic vision of this “unending blessing,” Chazal added a brilliant comment.

They state that these words imply that God’s blessings would lead to a situation where “Your lips will wear out from saying ‘dai!’ ‘Enough!’”

You see, we may have failed to say “Dayeinu” in the past, we may have even misunderstood why it is recited at the Seder, but God promises that, in the future, we will get weary of saying it! Because, in the future, we will finally recognize the miracles that we had been taking for granted for too long. We will focus on the miracles and not on the impurity, on the accomplishments and not on the shortcomings.

We will see the redemption and praise God for it.

Some may argue that we do not have it all in our blessed land. But it is a blessed land; we must make an effort to focus on those blessings and thank Hashem for them. And let us also understand that each and every day more and more of the geula is being revealed to us—all we need do is see it.

So if, as Hashem promised, our lips will tire from saying “dai,” they should tire even more from saying “Dayeinu, thanking God for all He has given us”

…even if we didn’t have kosher Tootsie Rolls when we wanted them.

Rabbi Neil Winkler is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

 

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