Why we don’t fly, a Passover story
Cohen and I chat about once a week, usually on my evening walk with the dogs around my beautifully maintained 1940s NE Portland neighborhood. We chat about life, how we miss our deceased parents, his dating life, my parenting life. We tell and critique jokes. We chat like the old Jews we are becoming.
It’s as thought we play jazz in our conversations. Spontaneous. Live interactions. Each dependent on the other.
Incidentally, Cohen was one of the first with whom I sharpened my analogy of a spiritualigious life being like jazz—while there is a time and place for beautifully rehearsed, polished pieces, a lot of the time, the universe seems to be asking us to jam along, pick up themes, play them back a little differently, even be surprised, from time to time, with the phrases and notes we have played.
Our conversation has stagnated for a moment.
There is silence on the line.
It’s not awkward.
It’s just a moment of silence.
Either of us might be the first to say, “Alright, I’m going to go.”
But, instead, he says, “Maybe we can fly. Maybe people could. It’s just that it would take so much practice that none of us would actually would do it.”
“I love it,” I say. I’m filled with energy. What an interesting concept. I jazz back, “Maybe! How cool. Maybe we could do this really cool thing, but we just don’t know we can?”
Another pause and Cohen picks up in a voice to let me know that these words are ones the character in the story is saying:
“I don’t know, Margaret. Maybe I shouldn’t have flown myself here. I’ve got such a migraine coming on. I was in a layer of pollution for most of the time. Such a headache. Next time, I’m taking a bus like a regular person. I’m going to lie down. Wake me up for dinner.”
I’d never before considered the possibilities of self-propelled flight-travel side effects.
This makes me think about humanity’s seemingly default non-satisfaction.
I share with Cohen my next thought, “I don’t know if people are built to be content.”
“It’s Dayenu, Rabbi,” he says.
Dayenu (die-ae-nue) is the Hebrew word for “it would have been enough for us.” The 15 stanzas of this 1000+ year-old song talk about gratitude. “Had we been led out of Egypt, that would have been enough. But we also got to cross the sea unharmed. Dayenu. Had we gotten to cross the sea unharmed, that would have been enough, but we also were sustained in the desert. Dayenu. Had we been sustained in the desert, that would have been enough, but we also….”
In our house, at passover—starts the evening of March 27th—each person recounts the many blessings that we would have been happy with. But, in fact, we have been blessed with more.
I will do mine publicly here and ask you to consider doing your own list—privately or shared.
Had I had a privileged childhood in New York City, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also got to travel and see the world. Dayenu.
Had I only gotten to see the world, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also was able to pursue many of my dreams. Dayenu.
Had I only been able to pursue my dreams, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also met and fell in love with Jane. Dayenu.
Had I met and fallen in love with Jane, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also was blessed to meet Emmett. Dayenu.
Had I met Emmett, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also was blessed to meet Annie. Dayenu.
Had I met Annie, it would have been enough, but I also was blessed to be able to move my family into our home in Portland. Dayenu.
Had I been able to move my family into our home in Portland, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also was able to find fulfilling work. Dayenu.
“I’ll be honest,” Cohen tells me, “About learning to fly, if it were hard to do, I don’t think I’d put in the work.”
Were I to have all the above blessings, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
But I also have great friends. Dayenu.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box oldrotb.wpengine.com, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.