April brings us Passover, the most widely celebrated of all the Jewish holidays. The warmth of family and friends enjoying a festive meal to celebrate and re-dedicate ourselves to the blessings of freedom is compelling. Everyone has a favorite recipe or moment. Our kids always waited eagerly for the time when we would sing Dayenu because we would all pound our fists on the table along with the chorus. No one got in trouble for rattling the silverware. In fact, we eagerly watched so see how high we could make it bounce.
When the singing subsided we had a chance to talk about the meaning of the song, how any one of the Passover miracles would have been enough. The idea of sufficiency is as relevant today as it was then. To be satisfied with what we have is to free ourselves from the burden of striving, from the stress of the relentless pursuit of things that don’t really matter. “Who is rich?” asks Ben Zoma in Pirkei Avot. “The one who is happy with his lot.”
There is a universality to this wisdom. I recall being in the home of my high school headmaster, an Episcopalian Reverend with a Latin motto engraved over his fireplace. Laetus sorte mea – Happy with my lot. That seemed like a novel concept to a room full of ambitious students, but it was a daily reminder for him of the life-centering principle we had yet to learn, the principle of Dayenu.