A darling little girl was born ten days ago: my first grandchild! She has dark hair and blue eyes, and I can hardly wait to hold her. I tried to put my feelings about her birth into words last week, but just blubbered at my keyboard. I’m finally able to write about my joy and gratitude without needing a kleenex.
When I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure six years ago, I hoped to live long enough for my sons to graduate from college. I was not only alive for both graduations, we had great parties! In the years since then, I’ve seen my sons fall in love and danced with each at his wedding. I’ve welcomed both daughters-in-law to our table and raised a toast to love. Now my husband and I have a granddaughter, and I’m here to celebrate it!
As my husband and I talked last week about our granddaughter’s birth, we also talked about the goodness and fragility of life. I named the major life events since my diagnosis and with each one, I said, “I didn’t know if I’d be here for this, but I was.” As I recited them, one after another, it began to sound like verses in a Hebrew song called, “Dayeinu.”
This was the perfect connection because the word, “dayeinu,” connotes remembering and being grateful. It’s a Hebrew word meaning, “it would have sufficed” or “it would have been enough.”
I first heard “Dayeinu” when I was learning about the Passover Seder. The song is more than 1000 years old. Each verse tells of a key step in God’s liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and leading them through the wilderness into new life. Each verse says that if God had taken that one particular action, but none of the future ones, the Hebrews would still have been grateful. Dayeinu — it would have been enough.
“Dayeinu is the song of our gratitude,” writes Elie Wiesel. “A Jew defines himself by his capacity for gratitude. A Jewish philosopher was once asked, ‘What is the opposite of nihilism?’ And he said, ‘Dayeinu,’ the ability to be thankful for what we have received, for what we are. The first prayer a Jew is expected to recite upon waking [every day] expresses gratitude for being alive. This holds for all generations, and surely for ours. For each of us, every day should be an act of grace, every hour a miraculous offering.”*
Here’s a taste of the Jewish song, “Dayeinu”:
Had God delivered us from Egypt and not divided the sea for us, Dayneinu!
Had God had divided the sea for us and not permitted us to cross the sea on dry land, Dayeinu!
Had God permitted us to cross the sea on dry land and not sustained us for forty years in the desert, Dayeinu!
Here’s part of my own Dayeinu:
Had I lived to see my sons graduate from college, Dayeinu!
Had I lived to see them fall in love, Dayeinu!
Had I danced at their weddings, Dayeinu!
Had I broken bread with new daughters, Dayeinu!
Had I lived to stand with my husband as we hold a grandchild, Dayeinu!
For all of this and more, Dayeinu!
Only God knows what is next. Dayeinu!
*A Passover Haggadah. English Commentary Elie Wiesel, Illustrations by Mark Podwal. Touchstone. New York. 1993.
**Passover Haggadah. Edited by Herbert Bronstein, Illustrations by Leonard Baskin. Central Conference of American Rabbis. New York.1994.