Tag Archives: Dayenu

You Gave Us Messiah But Not The Torah: Dayeinu!

Dayeinu is one of the highlights of Seder experience. The tune is catchy but the words and theme are frankly bizarre. Had you taken us from Egypt but not split the sea, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really?

If you had taken us to Mount Sinai but not given us the Torah, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really? Don’t we talk about how the Torah is the air that we breathe, indispensable to our lives and to our very existence? Had He given us the Torah but not brought us into Israel it would have been enough. Really? Wasn’t Israel created before the world because it, the Jewish people and Torah and the three pillars upon which the world is built?

-Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
“It Would Have Been Enough, Really?”

I have to admit, as many times as I’ve recited or sung Dayeinu, I’ve never considered the idea if stopping short of completing all the miracles Hashem did for the Children of Israel in the Exodus would indeed have been sufficient. What if God liberated Israel from Egypt but had not split the sea? That would have been a disaster.

As Rabbi Goldberg says, for religious Jews, the Torah is the very air they breathe, and the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people long before they were enslaved in Egypt. How could these things not come to pass as God declared they would? How can we imagine the Jewish people without the Torah or Israel?

But what about the rest of us?

Mount SinaiI know what you’re thinking, some of you anyway. You’re thinking about the Mixed Multitude, that ragtag group of non-Israelites who accompanied the Children of Israel out of Egypt because they saw Hashem’s miracles and believed, or at least they thought this guy Moses could give them a “get out of slavery free” card, too.

You’re thinking that these Gentiles stood with Israel at Sinai and received the Torah along with God’s special and chosen people, and thus, what was done for Israel was done for Gentiles as well.

Well, yes and no.

The “Mixed Multitude” link I posted a few paragraphs above goes into it in more detail, but these Gentiles, or rather their descendants after the third generation, were fully assimilated and intermarried into Israel and the tribes, so all traces of their Gentile lineage was lost.

That practice isn’t available to non-Jews who want to join themselves to Israel today. The best we can do is either become Noahides or convert to Judaism. For those of us to call ourselves “Messianic Gentiles” or Talmidei Yeshua, a third option is to specifically accept a highly specialized understanding of the revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) as Moshiach (Messiah or “Christ”) while taking upon ourselves a lesser set of obligations than the Jewish people, and while standing alongside Israel and embracing her central role in Hashem’s plan for ultimate, worldwide redemption in the Messianic Kingdom.

Which brings me back to Dayeinu. What if God had given us the blessings of Messiah but not given us the Torah…Dayeinu…it would be sufficient.

But God did allow us, through His magnificent grace and the mercy of Messiah, to benefit from some of the blessings of the New Covenant promises but not the full obligation to the Torah mitzvot? Is that really sufficient?

Depends on your point of view.

Back in the days when I was attending a little, local Baptist church, more than once in Sunday school, I heard the teacher thankfully remark how grateful he was to not be “under the Law” and enslaved to all those spiritless rituals and practices.

sefer torahActually, he said he was grateful to “no longer be under the Law”. I’ve always wondered what Christians mean by that, since Gentiles are not born into a covenant relationship with God, and particularly not under the Sinai covenant, thus, we were never, ever “under the Law” to begin with.

I tried to argue the other side of the coin, so to speak, relative to the Jewish people, but this was a Sunday school class in a Baptist church in Idaho, so I certainly wasn’t going to convince anyone that the Torah could be “the very air Jews breathe, indispensable to their lives and to their very existence.”

There’s a reason I don’t go to church anymore.

I had considered using the “Dayeinu” message to explain that even though we non-Jews were not given the Torah as such, it would be sufficient, but then, I encountered a problem in Rabbi Goldberg’s article:

Rabbi Nachman Cohen in his Historical Haggada offers a fantastic insight. If you look at the Torah and in Psalms, chapter 106 in particular, you will notice that every stanza of dayeinu corresponds with an incredibly gracious act God did for us and our absolute ungrateful response.

Explains Rabbi Nachman Cohen, dayeinu is our reflecting on our history and repairing the lack of gratitude we exhibited in the past. Seder night we look back on our national history, we review our story and we identify those moments, those gifts from God that we failed to say thank you for. We rectify and repair our ingratitude and thanklessness through the years by saying dayeinu now. In truth, dayeinu, each of these things was enough to be exceedingly grateful for.

R. Goldberg uses examples such God taking the Israelites out of Egypt and them not being grateful (Deut. 1:27) and God feeding them with manna and them not being grateful (Numbers 11:1-6). Dayeinu then, as R. Goldberg explained above, is the Jewish effort to repair the historic lack of gratitude of the Israelites to God’s miracles during the Exodus. It’s a lesson to every Jewish child at the Passover seder to learn gratitude for all that God has done, does, and will do for Israel.

So how can I use Dayeinu as an example of it being sufficient for we Gentiles to have the blessings of the New Covenant (without being named covenant members) and not receiving the Torah or the Land of Israel along with the Jews?

humilityI do it by turning things around. I do it by pointing out our own ingratitude. A small but vocal group of non-Jews do not accept that only the Jewish people are Israel, and that only the Jewish people have it placed upon themselves as named members of just about every covenant God has ever made with human beings, the full obligation and blessings of the Torah mitzvot. They not only desire but demand full inclusion into Israel, and full obligation to the mitzvot, effectively becoming Jewish converts without a bris.

I should point out that many normative Christians, who couldn’t care less about the Torah, still believe that when Jesus returns, the Church will inherit the Land of Israel and all of the covenant promises God made with the Jewish people. The Jews however, unless they convert to (Gentile) Christianity, not so much. That’s also a lack of gratitude and humility.

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)

It is better to take the seat for the least honored and then perhaps be given more honors, than to assume you have the greatest honor and to be publicly “demoted” and thus humiliated by your “host,” that is, Messiah.

In this case, us not being Jews, and not being Israel, it really is better to say “Dayeinu,” believe that what we have is truly sufficient, and if God wants to give us more, He’ll give us more. He’ll give, but we don’t presume to just take.

Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.”

-Talmud — Pirkei Avot 4:1

PassoverIt is a terrible thing to turn up your nose at the blessings and mercy of God and to demand more. We’ve seen the consequences to the Children of Israel in the Torah when they were ungrateful. If they are the natural branches of the root and could still be removed for lack of trust, how much easier is it for God to remove the ungrateful grafted in branches?

My family will be having our own wee home seder this coming Friday. While my Jewish family will be singing Dayeinu in the spirit of learning gratitude as R. Goldberg describes it, I’ll be learning to be grateful in a very different way, by accepting that what God has done for me, a non-Jew, a non-covenant member, is indeed not just sufficient, but abundant.



When Ephraim spoke piety, He was exalted in Israel; But he incurred guilt through Baal, And so he died. And now they go on sinning; They have made them molten images, Idols, by their skill, from their silver, Wholly the work of craftsmen. Yet for these they appoint men to sacrifice; They are wont to kiss calves!

Assuredly, They shall be like morning clouds, Like dew so early gone; Like chaff whirled away from the threshing floor. And like smoke from a lattice. Only I the Lord have been your God Ever since the land of Egypt; You have never known a [true] God but Me, You have never had a helper other than Me. I looked after you in the desert, In a thirsty land. When they grazed, they were sated; When they were sated, they grew haughty; And so they forgot Me. So I am become like a lion to them, Like a leopard I lurk on the way; Like a bear robbed of her young I attack them And rip open the casing of their hearts; I will devour them there like a lion, The beasts of the field shall mangle them.

You are undone, O Israel! You had no help but Me.Hosea 13:1-9 (JPS Tanakh)

I was reading the haftarah portion for Vayeitzei on Shabbat and realized something about the Jewish people and the rest of us. I think many Christians but particularly those who have attached themselves to some portions of the “Messianic” movement, feel a little bit envious of all the blessings God has bestowed upon Israel. I think this is one of the reasons why the early Church chose to apply a supersessionist theology, stating that Gentile Christianity has replaced the Jews in all of God’s covenant promises. We just can’t stand the idea that “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22) so we must find a way to steal what the Jews have and pretend it belongs only to us.

I’ve probably always known this, but when reading the above-quoted passages from Hosea 13, it came into absolute clarity within me that as much as God has blessed the Jewish people, He has also designed ghastly curses for them in times of disobediance and rebellion, much more than we can see for people who are not Jewish, including Christians. I’m not saying that Christians haven’t been persecuted for their faith over the course of the past 2,000 years, but as we see in many of the exclamations of the ancient prophets, God is exceedingly determined to hold Israel accountable for any failure to the covenant they have with Him.

Christianity sometimes mistakes the level of accountability to which God holds the Jews as an eternal curse upon Israel, but even as God curses, so in the next moment, He blesses them abundantly.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, For you have fallen because of your sin. Take words with you And return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all guilt And accept what is good; Instead of bulls we will pay [The offering of] our lips. Assyria shall not save us, No more will we ride on steeds; Nor ever again will we call Our handiwork our god, Since in You alone orphans find pity!”

I will heal their affliction, Generously will I take them back in love; For My anger has turned away from them. I will be to Israel like dew; He shall blossom like the lily, He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree. His boughs shall spread out far, His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s, His fragrance like that of Lebanon. They who sit in his shade shall be revived: They shall bring to life new grain, They shall blossom like the vine; His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim [shall say]: “What more have I to do with idols? When I respond and look to Him, I become like a verdant cypress.” Your fruit is provided by Me. –Hosea 14:2-9 (JPS Tanakh)

Dancing with GodIsrael’s special place in the heart of God is undeniable, but our God is a jealous God. As much as He loves, He also chastises. As much as He has compassion, He also gives discipline. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

I realized with great certainty when reading the words of the prophet Hosea that in many ways, we non-Jews are “blessed” that we don’t carry the responsibilities of our Jewish brothers. Some of us would be more than willing to bear the full burden of the mitzvot but many, many of us do not realize the dread consequences of that desire. This is one of the reasons that Judaism is reluctant to allow Gentiles to convert; out of the fear that once faced with everything it is to be a Jew, for good and for ill, that some of the converts would abandon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as the people of the Book.

There isn’t always a consistent interpretation of the meaning of the “Jerusalem letter” issued by the Council of Apostles and Elders as recorded in Acts 15. Some say it limits the “Torah responsibility” of Gentile Christians to just those restrictions literally recorded, while others say it is merely a starting point for non-Jews who have come to the faith to begin learning the full ways of the Torah. Yet we see that upon receipt of the letter, the non-Jewish disciples were “strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (Acts 16:5 – NASB), indicating that there was some expression of relief and even joy that the non-Jews would not be expected to take on the full yoke of Torah. Paul’s letter to the Galatians also makes it quite clear not only that the non-Jewish disciples weren’t expected to take on all of the Torah mitzvot unless they converted to Judaism, but that the duties expected of them if they converted would be far and above what was (and is) required of a Gentile follower of the Messiah.

While Christians and Jews continue to debate the exact blessings and responsibilities assigned by God to each covenant group, it is readily apparent that Christians are not simply “Jews without the Talmud”. We are attached to God by the Messianic covenant and not only are we not obligated to the Mosaic covenant, we probably should be glad we do not carry upon ourselves the Torah of Moses. For with all the special attention and devotion God lavishes upon the descendents of the Children of Israel, they also embrace a tremendous responsibility with consequences to freeze the blood. Like Peter when he swore to follow the Master, even unto death, we should not be so quick to make oaths that we are not be able to keep, and as the Master urges us, we should let our “yes” to him be just “yes” and our “no” to him (if such be the case) be just “no”. We have been given a extraordinarily special gift as the result of the death and subsequent life of the Messiah. This must be sufficient for us without coveting what belongs to our Jewish neighbors (Exodus 20:17). Is not the love of God through Jesus Christ enough for any of us? Do we tempt God and throw the blood of Christ back in the Master’s face by wanting more?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. –2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)

One of my favorite Passover songs is Dayenu, which seems an appropriate title given the theme of this wee missive.

Dayenu is a song that is part of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The word “Dayenu” means approximately, “it would have been enough for us”, “it would have been sufficient”, or “it would have sufficed.” –Wikipedia

Of the various lyrics to this song, the following stands out as particularly relevant here.

If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah – Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

Adapted for we Christians, I think it should go more like this:

If He had given us His only begotten Son so that the world might be saved, and had not given us the Torah – Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

It has sufficed us. By Christ, we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) of the sins in our hearts. We don’t need to be more than this. As Christians, we are sufficient in His love. We are good enough.