“DAYEINU” and Tootsie Rolls

I know that it has been quite a while since I’ve written a blog but my schedule now is quite full and I’ve always felt that the purpose of writing this blog is to share personal thoughts or experiences that I feel are worth sharing and not simply writing for the purpose of writing. This past Yom Tov of Pesach gave me some time to reflect on different things, especially how the messages of the holiday should impact all of us. And so, I share this message with you.

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 that there are too many variables in the make-up of a food product so we understand now that foods are acceptable only with a 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 being 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 Haggada, I feared that its authors may have be blind to this widespread syndrome.

“Da, da yeinu, Da, da, yeinu, Da, da yeinu, 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 מצרים” – that alone would have satisfied us! And yet you did so much more!
That is what we claim at our Seder
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 Haggada 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 Haggada will lead us to the conclusion that we might very well have been misinterpreting this well-known poem, and for too long 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, more than enough reason for us to sing praises to G-d! 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 start to 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 beside 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 are challenged to understand that geula, the redemption, takes time.

And unless we pause and perceive the 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 the entire process and 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 made us the largest wholesale diamond center in the world…Dayeinu
…but not let us have the more museums per capita than any other nation…Dayeinu
…but not grant us more orchestras per capita than any other nation…Dayeinu
…but not teach us to publish more books per capita than any other nation…
…but not develop the most productive dairy cows in the world…
…but not have a most powerful army…
…but not have the third most stable economy in the world…
…but not have the humanity to provide medical, economic and agricultural aid to suffering nations…


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 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 G-d, 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, if I don’t open up the ‘windows’ in heaven….”
And, listen carefully,  “….‘empty out’ my storehouse of goodness and shower you with blessing…” “ad b’li dei”- “…that is unending!”
In analyzing the prophetic vision of this “unending blessing”, Chazal add a brilliant comment.
They state that these words imply that G-d’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, but G-d 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-NOT on the impurity; on the accomplishments and NOT on the shortcomings.
We will see the redemption and praise G-d for it.

Some may argue that we do not have it all in our blessed land. But it IS a blessed land So let’s 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
And if 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.