Dayenu—Finding Meaning in the Small Things

Dayenu is the most well-known Passover song, probably because of its simple refrain and rollicking tune. Yet, if you think about what it is saying, it makes little sense. Would it really be enough if God had taken us out of Egypt but had not divided the sea for us? Wouldn’t the pursuing Egyptians have re-enslaved us? Or enabled us to reach Mount Sinai but hadn’t given us the Torah? What would have been the point?

Dayenu is actually suggesting an important spiritual principle of enoughness. We live our lives with ambitions and hopes. Some are fulfilled. Some never happen. Some, with the passage of time, fade away or are lost. Even as we mourn the losses, we are to remember the blessings that we have. We need to look at our lives in perspective. It is true I am not as flexible as I once was, and that my hearing is declining. Yet it is also true that I can still see, and that I enjoy my grandchildren. The practice is to enjoy what I do have. I should place the reality of the decline that is part of aging in the larger context of my whole life. All of it is the reality of my life. Let me remember to see even as my eyes dim; to communicate even when it seems easier to sit alone in my room. I can smell and taste. I can touch and be touched. Neither the great moments nor the sad moments alone are the sum total of my life. In the context of What Matters, we think about what we would want for the last period of our life:


It would be enough to be surrounded by family and friends

It would be enough to eat my favorite food

It would be enough to be at home with the sun shining in my bedroom

It would be enough to listen to my favorite music

A follower of the Kotzker rebbe complained about not getting a tallit (a four-cornered prayer shawl) from his in-laws—a standard wedding present. The Kotzker replied: Then wrap yourself in the four corners of the world and pray!

The story teaches that you can lack many things, but that doesn’t stop you from being able to feel embraced by the universe as you wrap yourself with it and with the precious memories of your life. That would be enough—dayenu.


-What would be the small things that would give you pleasure?

-What would be the more important things that would make it be enough—dayenu?

*Learn more about "What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life" at

haggadah Section: -- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source: Rabbi Michael Strassfeld (adapted from his forthcoming book, Judaism Disrupted)