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By Rabbi Yehuda Heber
Friday evening, Apr. 15, is the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The holiday spans eight days, ending Saturday evening, Apr. 23.
Some of the Passover observances include not eating leavened bread, and having a Seder (Passover meal) complete with matzah, bitter herbs and four cups of wine on the first two nights of the holiday (Friday and Saturday evenings).
Historically, Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery to King Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. The 10 plagues that the Egyptians were smitten with, and the splitting of the Red Sea, are the more well-known parts of the Exodus story.
At the Seder, liturgy is recited from a book called the Haggadah. The Haggadah contains details of the history, as well as hymns and prayers. One well-known hymn, entitled “Dayenu,” lists all of the miracles that God performed for the Israelites as they left Egypt.
After each of the 15 stanzas of this hymn, the refrain repeats itself: “Dayenu – it would have sufficed us.” For example, the first stanza states: “If He had brought us out of Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against the Egyptians – dayenu, it would have sufficed us!”
One of the stanzas says: “If He had brought us to Mount Sinai, but not given us the Torah (the five Books of Moses) – dayenu!”
This begs the question: What would have been the purpose of the Israelites being brought to Mount Sinai if they weren’t going to be given the Torah (which occurred at Mount Sinai). What would they have accomplished, just standing there around a mountain in the desert?
Biblical commentaries teach us that at the time that the Israelites were standing around the mountain of Sinai, prepared to receive the Torah, an incredible feeling of unity spread among the nation. They were one people who were enslaved together, freed together and now stood united to accept the precepts of the Torah as their lifestyle. Their unified cause made them look beyond any differences that existed between them as individuals and focus on their solidarity as a nation.
Dayenu tells us that if all that was accomplished at Mount Sinai was a nation united, dayenu, it would have sufficed. Unity is, in and of itself, an incredible occurrence. When we put our differences aside for the greater good and for the values of kindness and justice that we all share, it is indeed a great accomplishment.
In these times of uncertainty in so many areas of life, be it economics, politics, world peace or other matters, we need to make the effort to look past our differences and be there for each other. There is much that unites us. Even if we can’t find solutions to all the dilemmas we face, if we can join together in our support and acceptance of each other – dayenu – it will suffice!
For more details about Passover, visit www.ChabadYorktown.com. You will find much information regarding the historical background of the holiday, how to Passover and many delicious Passover recipes. You will also find thought-provoking articles on the present-day applications of the ancient story.
To join a community Seder, purchase hand-baked Shmura Matzah, sell your chametz or to receive a free holiday guide, visit the above website, call 914-962-1111 or e-mail Rabbi@ChabadYorktown.com.
Wishing you and yours a very happy and kosher Passover!
Rabbi Yehuda Heber is the rabbi at Chabad of Yorktown, Cortlandt and Somers.
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