by Father Mark Goldasich
Ever get one of those tunes in your head that you keep humming all day? Well, I’ve got a doozy in my noggin right now. It’s a little ditty, called “Dayenu,” that I’ve heard sung at Seder meals that I’ve attended over the years. Dayenu is a Hebrew word that roughly means: “It would have been enough.”
The song has some 15 verses that outline the miraculous workings of God among the Jewish people. Here’s a little sample:
“If God had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land, dayenu!
“If God had taken us through the sea on dry land, and not drowned our oppressors in it, dayenu!
“If God had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, dayenu!”
OK, I’m sure you get the point: God’s blessings are overflowing; his generosity cannot be outdone. Our challenge as God’s people is to mirror to some extent that boundless love — not necessarily in grand gestures, but in small and unexpected ways.
A good example is seen in this story of a 10-year-old boy who, years ago, approached the counter of a soda shop and climbed onto a stool.
“What does an ice cream sundae cost?” he politely asked the waitress.
“Fifty cents,” she answered distractedly.
The kid dug deep into his pockets and pulled out an assortment of change and began to count it. The waitress rolled her eyes and grew impatient with the kid as she had “bigger, more important” customers to wait on.
“Well,” the boy said, “how much would just plain ice cream be?”
The waitress snapped, “Thirty-five cents.”
After counting his money again, the boy said, “May I please have some plain ice cream in a dish?” He handed the correct amount of coins over to the waitress, who then brought him the ice cream.
Later, the kid left and the waitress returned to clear away the boy’s dish. When she picked it up, a lump formed in her throat and a tear cascaded down her cheek. There on the counter, under the dish, sat two nickels and five pennies. The waitress realized that the boy had had enough money for the sundae, but he sacrificed it in order to leave her a tip. (Adapted from a story in a 2003 Bits & Pieces booklet.)
That the kid above was polite, dayenu! That he left any tip at all, dayenu! But leaving a 43 percent tip? Now, that’s a generosity way beyond what was expected or deserved, especially given the behavior of the waitress.
Now that the Easter season is here, that Seder song and the example of the little boy might be powerful guides for us in these 50 days of rejoicing. An “Easter dayenu spirituality” can challenge us to become aware of how God continues to touch our lives: If God had only given us his Son at Christmas, dayenu! If God had only given us the Our Father to pray, dayenu! If God had only given us one miracle done by Jesus, dayenu! If God had Jesus only pray for us, dayenu!
You can easily see where all of this will lead: God showers us with blessing upon blessing upon blessing. Not only does Jesus die for our salvation, but he rises to a new life that he wants to share with all those who follow him. And, not only that, the Holy Spirit is sent to strengthen, guide and encourage us. God doesn’t know the meaning of enough when it comes to us.
The little boy in the story shows us how an Easter person behaves. We are called to go way beyond what might be expected of us and to astound others with our generosity.
Honestly, though, if we rejoiced with all our hearts only on Easter Sunday, dayenu! But if we can keep it up all through the Easter season . . .