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Our New President: Dayenu

Obama in WH elevator

(See update below)

A few days prior to Obama’s inauguration, I was visiting someone who’s always been an anarchist of sorts, a man so opposed to the electoral process that he’s never voted, not even in this past election. What bothers me most about this philosophy is the notion that it matters not one whit who the president is, the system will remain almost exactly the same. Ralph Nader makes me crazy for this same reason: he’s always telling the world there’s no difference between candidates or parties.

tree-of-lifeIn Hebrew the word dayenu (pronounced die-ay-nou) is an incantation, a song of thanks, sung primarily at the Passover seder. Roughly translated, it means “it would have been enough.” For instance, if nature had only given us our eyes, dayenu. Had nature only given us grass to look at, dayenu. Had nature only given us grass and trees, dayenu. And so on and so forth, naming all the beautiful things nature has given us to see. (This is my own personal incantation; the devout give their dayenu’s to G-d.)

In this spirit I offer a few dayenu’s to President Obama:

If he’d only signed orders to close down the prison at Guantanomo, dayenu.
If he’d only signed orders to shut down overseas CIA prisons, dayenu.
If he’d only banned torture in interrogations, dayenu.
If he’d only started making plans to get out of Iraq, dayenu.
If he’d only restored funding to facilities that give information about abortions, dayenu.


In a mere five days in office, President Barack Obama did all of these things, thereby reversing what has been government policy under the Bush administration lo these dark and dreary years. Not to mention the hearts and minds this man has touched, and the hope he’s given, by simply being who he is and saying the things he says in the way he says them.

No difference between parties or candidates? Hah!

All together now, sing it out: Day, dayenu, day dayenu, day day enu, dayenu dayanu!

From Wikipedia: The word “Dayenu” means approximately, “it would havebloedel_field_sm been enough for us” or “it would have sufficed.” This traditional up-beat Passover song is over one thousand years old… about being grateful to God for all of the gifts he gave the Jewish people, such as taking them out of slavery, giving them the Torah and Shabbat…had God only given one of the gifts, it would have still been enough. This is to show much greater appreciation for all of them as a whole.

Coda, January 27th:
I woke up this morning after a dream about two friends from back East, and I missed them sufficiently to call. Both of these women are, like most of my friends throughout my lifetime, politically-minded, and activists at various moments in time. Joni’s mind and mouth move more rapidly than a speeding bullet; Christine is just the opposite, speaking with long thoughtful pauses in between sentences.

I was still in Dayenu mode, and congratulated each of them on having a new President. Christine only wanted to talk about her fears of Obama being assassinated, since, she said, she can’t talk about it to anyone else without being called “NEGATIVE,” or told she might cause such a thing with her thoughts. “I worried when he got out of the car at the parade,” she told me.

Joni, on the other hand, could only talk about the long-awaited collapse of capitalism and the fact that nothing Obama does can save the situation. Every so often she interrupted her staccatto monologue to toss in a few words about his warrior-like foreign policy.

Well, what did I expect? After knowing these women over 40 years, I pretty much know how they’re going to react to most things. I had to laugh: here I am dayenu-ing, and one friend says he’ll be assassinated while the other one says he doesn’t matter. And people call ME negative! I suppose that’s why these women are still my friends.

I haven’t lost hope. I still believe the world’s a little bit brighter because we elected Barack Obama. Just a little bit brighter.


2 responses »

  1. If the Republicans, particularly Sen. McCain, could have stuck to being bipartisan, dayenu….alas, that was not meant to be for 6 days into the new presidency, they have slipped back to old ways. So I say, if we rid ourselves of those Republicans who cannot act for the good of the country, only for themselves….then surely, dayenu!

    Hm…I’m not sure if this is appropriate usage of dayenu! But thanks for commenting.–MS

  2. Lovely. You’ve rehabilitated the prayer for me, at least in part. Thank you.

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