Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Reality of Dayenu

There has been one change to the seder in the last hundred years. A major one. Not all of us appreciate it, not all of us can. I can't. Those who really can are dwindling in number each year, but for them, its much easier.

Even tinokot shel beit rabban (children in school) know that we have an obligation to feel as if we left Egypt personally, not just our ancestors. That's increasingly hard to do when "liberation" means Florida, take out food, or your cleaning lady scrubbing your floor.

During the second seder, at al achas kamah... after dayenu, my grandfather remarked. "When I was a child, I used to say v'hichnisu l'eretz yisrael. We all did. But we didn't know what it meant. But now, I say it, and I know what it means."

After being turned back by the British, my (paternal) grandfather spent over a year at a displaced person's camp in Cypress. Only in 1948, after the State of Israel was declared, were my grandfather, his brother, and his sister (the survivors of 7 children) able to enter Israel. He served in the Army and stayed in Israel until 1958 or so, before making his way (with my grandmother, father, and uncle) to America via Brazil.

Imagine that! We look at dayenu and its all history, tradition, and stories. The one we relate to most? The Torah, and only because we see what happens without it. Even Israel, could you imagine not having it? But the big deal wasn't having Israel, but being brought into it. The transition of being countryless to having an actual homeland. But he does. He grew up saying the same thing his parents and grandparents said for hundreds of years.

Before 1948 my grandfather said it not knowing what it meant to have Israel. I say it not knowing what it means not to have Israel. Neither of us knew what it meant to get Israel. But he does, and has for nearly 60 years. He was brought into Israel. Not a story. For him, v'hichnisu l'eretz yisrael is reality.