Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Third Passover: Dayenu

Last year, the symbols of this holiday triggered tears, and I could barely free myself from endless questions about Noah’s suicide in order to be fully present for the four traditional questions of the Passover seder. This year, we are again in denial about the holiday, not wanting to face all the work of preparing for it--but really just not wanting to face another big family holiday without Noah, especially one that came only a week after his death in 2013. 

So when a friend brings up the word dayenu for contemplation at our Jewish meditation group, it takes me a while to face it. Dayenu is a favorite song of thanksgiving during the seder that recounts the series of miraculous events in the Exodus story and at the end of each says Dayenu – it would have been enough, it would have sufficed. As in: Had God brought us out of Egypt and not divided the sea for us, Dayenu. 

I knew that I couldn’t say Dayenu for the years we had with Noah because 21 years are not nearly enough. So my first impulse was to try to say Dayenu to Noah for all the things that didn’t happen, but could have had he lived: 
Had you come home from college and taken a long break to rest and regroup, Dayenu.
Had you taken a long break and decided not to go back to school, Dayenu.
Had you not gone back to school and drifted for a long time without a focus, Dayenu.
Had you drifted for a long time and kept us at a distance, Dayenu.
Had you kept us at a distance and insisted on tackling your demons on your own, Dayenu.
Had you tackled your demons on your own and lived an ordinary life, Dayenu.

The verses stall, not fitting. I wish Noah had known that it would have been enough had he simply lived; we loved him and would have helped him however we could to tame the demons. But would I truly have had compassion for his struggles? Would I have accepted his choices, his limitations, our continued estrangement? Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone

Before I am engulfed by that sea, other verses come to mind to clear a path:
Had we had the loving support of our family but not that of our friends, Dayenu.
Had we had the loving support of our friends but not that of our community, Dayenu.
Had we had the caring support of our community but not the help of support groups, Dayenu.
Had we had the understanding help of support groups but not that of therapy, Dayenu.
Had we had the insight of therapy but not the healing of nature, music, yoga, writing-- Dayenu.
Had we had the healing of many things but not the health to restore our lives, Dayenu.

This litany, more in the spirit of Dayenu, could go on for many verses. We are deeply grateful for all that helps sustain us through grief.

What do we want to leave behind on our personal journey of liberation, and what do we want to take with us? I want to leave behind my oppressive memories of Passover from the past two years, when it felt literally contaminated by Noah’s suicide. I want to find a way back to my love of the holiday so I can create new memories in years to come.

*Note: The illustration is the Dayenu page from The Golden Haggadah, made c. 1320 in Barcelona. Thousands of artful haggadahs are still being made today to accompany the ritual of the seder meal.

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