It is a song which enthralls young and old alike: Dayeinu. We say the words, sing the chorus but do we understand its meaning?
If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayeinu, it would have sufficed us!
In each successive line we discuss something that God did for us and we say, even if He had done this and nothing else, it would have been enough! But is this true? Would it have been enough if God had taken us out of Egypt and not split the sea? Would that have sufficed? We would have been slaughtered by the Egyptian army. Would it have been enough if God brought us to the desert but didn’t give us the manna? We would have starved! What is the deeper meaning of the Dayeinu song?
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky advances an incredible idea. We often assume that gratitude is expressed at the completion of a task or initiative. If my wife prepares a beautiful dinner, I don’t express my gratitude as she puts in each ingredient, I express my thanks when the delicious meal is served. But we must learn to express our gratitude to God in a different way.
There is an important lesson to derived from this hymn. We must learn to be grateful for every favor we receive, even if at the moment we cannot see its ultimate good. The refrain “Dayeinu, It would have sufficed us” means that every incident was sufficient to elicit prompt gratitude from us …”
(From Bondage to Freedom)
God does so much for us, yet we often only express our gratitude when dreams come true, initiatives actualize, and things fall into place. We forget to express our gratitude during each stage of the journey. We must learn to say thank you for all the miracles and beautiful things God does for us each and every day. Life is often imperfect, but don’t wait to say thank you to your Father until you have everything you want, and your life is exactly how you imagined it. Learn to give thanks for the beautiful and miraculous events (big and small) which occur around us and to us every moment of every day.
Dayeinu, doesn’t mean, “If You would have done this for us it would have been enough, and we would not have wanted or needed anything else.” This is simply false. Dayeinu means we recognize that each and everything You did for us requires and deserves an expression of gratitude and appreciation. We thank You for taking us out of Egypt, even though we were stuck by the banks of the Red Sea. We thank You for bringing us into the desert and allowing us to be free, even though we weren’t exactly sure how we would be provided for. Thank You for bringing us to Mount Sinai and allowing us to experience unity, even before You gave us the great treasure of Torah. Thank you for each and everything You did for us. We don’t just thank You at the end of the forty-year journey; we find the courage to thank You for each and every step.
Dayeinu is not just a statement of historical gratitude. Dayeinu reminds us to express our gratitude to God for the incredible and wonderous things He does for us daily. Things like mobility and vision; miracles like livelihood and health; friends and family – these warrant an expression of gratitude. Yes, there are many things in our lives that seem broken and require repair, but we can’t wait to express our gratitude until everything is perfect and as we desire. We must live a life of Dayeinu and learn to express our appreciation for all of the perfect miracles in our imperfect lives.
Insights from the Baal Shem Tov