Dayenu: Passover In A Pandemic

At approximately 7:00 PM every night for the last several nights, people in my neighborhood have opened their windows to cheer on healthcare workers in appreciation of their tireless dedication on the front lines of the COVID19 pandemic. I see an older woman across the street clap enthusiastically, a smile across her face, as she peers out her window. A young man crawls onto his fire escape to observe and absorb the moment of joyful comradery after days of physical social distancing.

The first night that this took place, I joined in fervently, but almost immediately felt a pang of dread. In the nights since, I continue to feel a sense of community with human beings I have never met, but also a deep poignancy that this has become the new normal. We open our windows and applaud the people who cannot even hear us because they are busy risking their lives.

Despite the sadness, I feel deep gratitude for the health care workers and other less-recognized workers who are holding up our society in this moment. I am thankful for the relationships I am able to cultivate throughout this period of uncertainty and continue to wonder: What would the world look like if we sustain this level of applause and appreciation once this virus stops coursing through the veins of our country and the world at large? 

Pesach is around the corner, and I am reminded of the sentiments of Dayenu, one of the liveliest songs at my family’s seder. Dayenu, literally meaning “enough for us”, is a song of appreciation of God’s kindness throughout the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. “If S/He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it – Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! If S/He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat –  Dayenu, it would have been enough for us!” Dayenu particularly teaches us to appreciate the smaller things that build up to form larger acts of grace that bring light into the world. 

The beauty of gratitude is that looking outward at the good in others inspires us to better ourselves. The Jewish people experienced God’s grace on Pesach, and we should all be fortunate to live in the spirit of this kindness.

Life is short – sometimes unbearably so. If nothing more, we should emerge from this pandemic experience with an eye for both the smaller and the more significant things that bring good into our world. Let us be vocal in our gratitude, and internalize it when someone expresses it in our direction. Let us reflect the good we notice, in times of hardship as well as those that are more carefree. And sometimes, let us shout our thanks and praise from an open window.

Chag Sameach.