Featured in local papers on Thursday, April 21, 2005. Copyright 2005 by Yosef Y. Polter

Passover – A Lesson in Gratitude

Passover will begin Saturday night at sunset with the seder beginning after nightfall – 8:25 PM.  Jews all around the world will sit down to the traditional seder with its customs, rituals, readings, and songs. 

One of the well-known sections in the Haggada (the seder prayer book authored many centuries ago by our great sages) is the poem of Dayeinu.  In it we enumerate the many kindnesses that G‑d showed the Jewish people during the exodus.  One of the lines in Dayeinu reads: “Had G‑d split the sea but not brought us through on dry land, it would have sufficed.”  An obvious question comes to mind: what value would it have been had He split the sea but not brought us through – the Egyptians were fast approaching?  We would have been dragged right back to Egypt or worse yet, slaughtered.  How could we say that splitting the sea even without getting to the other side would have sufficed?  The same kind of difficulty can also be raised regarding some of the other verses in this poem.

Herein lies a very valuable life lesson.  It is important to appreciate and be thankful for each gesture, however small or incomplete, even if we don’t see the full picture.  The reason is actually quite simple: inevitably, we will always be able to find a reason why a certain kindness has no value.  Even if the kindness is indeed “complete,” human nature, like a heat-seeking missile, can always find a reason why it wasn’t good enough.  Some of those reasons may even be valid.  However, if we don’t develop an attitude of gratitude, the end result is that (with all the justification on our side) we will never find happiness because all we see is how the kindness is incomplete. 

Dayeinu teaches us the importance of seeing each step as having its own merit and being worthy of appreciation regardless of its completion.  For some people this may take     effort.  Changing ones character is never easy.  But as the saying goes: “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?”  Ironically, they are often mutually exclusive.  And, though it may take work, the choice is quite clear. 

Best wishes for a kosher and happy Passover.

Rabbi Polter is the director of the Chabad Jewish Center located at 148 Great Road (Rte. 2A) in Acton.  The Center, which serves area towns, offers many programs and services throughout the year.  For more information, please call (978) 929-2513 or 758-8994