Monday, April 18, 2011

Ponderings for April 19, 2011

Passover Ponderings


By Rick Higginson

The Jewish Passover Seder is a beautiful ceremony, enhanced by the way each family or group tends to individualize the observance. The personality of the person leading the Seder, along with the dynamics of those gathered for the meal, bring changes even from year to year in the same setting. Certain elements, however, are traditionally kept in the Seder, both in keeping with the commands regarding the observance, and the customs handed down through countless generations.

One of these is the Dayeinu. Spoken or sang, the Dayeinu takes the gathering through a progression of the events associated with the first Passover, with each event marked by reciting the word, dayeinu. It starts with, “If He had brought us out of Egypt, but not executed judgment upon our oppressors, dayeinu.”

Dayeinu means something along the lines of, “It would have been enough,” though there are other nuances involved. There is an implication of, “It would have been more than we deserved,” or, “It would have been more than we had the right to ask for.” The Dayeinu takes fifteen steps of God’s action on behalf of Israel – five relating to the deliverance from slavery, five relating to the miracles of the Exodus, and five relating to the covenant relationship with God that Israel is brought into – and declares that each is itself enough of a blessing from God.

Dayeinu is both an expression of worship and humility. It declares the glory of each blessing, but also declares that if each blessing had been the last, it would have been enough to show God’s love for His people. It states, “It is only by God’s great love that we may approach and ask for anything more.” It’s certainly nothing that we have earned.

It’s a strange pronouncement in our modern, entitlement culture, to declare that if God were to never bless us again, He would still have done enough for us. Even within the Christian Church, we see ample teachings and doctrines encouraging us to all but demand blessings from God, as if these blessings were our due.

How would it be received in our churches, if we taught the concept of Dayeinu?

Singer/Songwriter John Fischer wrote a song back in the 1970s titled, Circle of Blessing. The song dealt with the loss of a child during pregnancy, and the second verse went as follows:

The hard rain, it falls, the same on us all. And how you do all depends on your point of view. One man may curse, while another says, ‘It could be worse,’ as he lifts his cup, whether full or empty, to You.

He lifts his cup, whether full or empty, to God. The cup is not being lifted to ask for a refill, but rather, is being lifted in an expression of praise and thanksgiving. Like Job, the lifter is declaring, “The Lord has given; the Lord has taken. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” If we praise God with the expectation of being blessed by Him in return, then we are not really praising. We are performing or reciting for pay, and in a very real way, engaging in a form of spiritual harlotry. Our love for God should be given freely, without conditions set for the delivering of our affections.

As this Passover begins, and as Christendom celebrates the death and resurrection of Messiah, we should ask ourselves this question – If God were to never bless us again, would we still see all He has done already as enough?

Full or empty, our challenge (not just yours, but mine as well) is to lift our cups and declare, “Dayeinu.”

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