Dayenu means “it would have sufficed” or “we would have been satisfied.” Perhaps “grateful” would be a better translation. Dayenu is the song of our gratitude. A Jewish philosopher was once asked, “what is the opposite of hopelessness?” And he said, “Dayenu,” the ability to be thankful for what we have received, for what we are. The first prayer that a Jew is expected to recite upon waking expresses hir gratitude for being alive. This holds for all generations, and surely ours. For each of us, every day should be an act of grace, every hour a miraculous offering.
In many Sephardi and Mizrahi communities, the singing of Dayenu is accompanied by beating each other with leeks or scallions. Using bunches of scallions or leeks, Seder participants beat each other (lightly) on the back and shoulders to symbolize the taskmasters whip.
אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם
אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת
אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה
Ilu hotzi hotzianu hotzianu mi’mitzrayim Hotzianu mi’mitzrayim dayenu
(If you had only brought us out of Mitzrayim – Dayenu!)
Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu Dai-yenu, Dai-yenu!
Ilu natan natan lanu natan lanu et ha'shabbat Natan lanu et ha'shabbat dayenu
(If you had only given us Shabbat – Dayenu!)
Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu Dai-yenu, Dai-yenu! Ilu natan natan lanu natan lanu et ha'torah Natan lanu et ha'torah dayenu
(If you had only given us the Torah – Dayenu!)
Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu, Dai-dai-yenu Dai-yenu, Dai-yenu
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