The Egyptian’s Anti-Dayyenu – A text study

The song we sing at the Seder table at Pesach, Dayyenu, has a memorable melody and offers thanks for all the wondrous deeds in the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. It is first recorded in around the 10th Century, though there is extensive scholarly debate over whether it is in fact much older. For a brief overview of Dayyenu itself and a lay-person’s commentary on the Pesach Hagadah see: (page 67). So, whilst the text below is from one of the oldest collections of midrashim, we are not suggesting that it was written with Dayyenu in mind nor spurred the authorship of Dayyenu. However, for us in our time, it resonates strongly almost as an anti-text. The Egyptians servants of Pharaoh do not give thanks to God for the ever increasing redemptive acts, rather they bemoan their fate to Pharaoh for each successive blow as slave-masters.

In our reading of the text we are going to do three things. First, we will read through the text and unpick the ‘grammar’ of the midrash – a look at the technical aspects of the components of the midrash. Secondly, we will try to establish the message of the midrash and ambiguities surrounding its meaning. Finally, we will consider whether there are any contemporary implications for our Seder table.

Download the The Anti-Dayyenu -Study sheet here.

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