Dayenu As "What If?"

Dayenu — it would have been enough, or more than we deserved — asks us to consider alternate possibilities. What if there hadn't been an Exodus? What if there had been an Exodus, but no parting of the Red Sea? What if the sea had been parted, but no code of law had been given to the Israelites? And so on, and so suggests some interesting and panic inducing possible outcomes for the stories we know so well we almost treat them as cliched.

Marvel has done this too, with comic books asking "What If," and a series that launched in 2021: what if Steve Rogers didn't get the super-soldier serum, and instead Peggy Carter did? What if everyone became zombies? What if Thanos was a good guy? What if T'Challah became Star-Lord and Killmonger became Black Panther? Shifting perspectives enables empathy and stimulates creativity, gives us a look at how characters may rise to their new circumstances: some may become heroes while others let power corrupt them.

Dayenu is not just a poem (or an earworm of a song that might even dispel "We Don't Talk About Bruno"), it's an approach to invigorating storytelling. What if we asked "what if?" about the stories we know backwards and forwards, the ones that are so familiar that we either hold them too sacred or, thanks to repetition, consider them rote and meaningless. What if Miriam had become the hero of the Exodus story, famous not just for timbrels and songs after crossing a sea, but for speaking in front of Pharaoh, demanding that her people be let go? What if Tzipporah, Moses' wife who is targeted with racist and xenophobic epithets, went with the team of spies to survey the land of Canaan? What if Moses had lived to see the people enter the land of Canaan after 40 years of wandering and complaining in the desert?

And in looking at this Haggadah, this year, what if we took every story and imagined it from a different perspective? It's not as subversive as it sounds — we can always return to the traditional stories — but asking "what if" can open us to possibility, new relevance and fresh connections.

[Image source: GIPHY]

haggadah Section: -- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source: Esther Kustanowitz