- Had He brought us out of Egypt and not wrought judgements on them -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He wrought judgements on them, and not upon their gods -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had he wrought judgements on their gods, and not killed their firstborns -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He killed their firstborns, and not given us their property -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He given us their property, and not split the sea for us -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had he split the sea for us, and not passed us across it on dry land -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He passed us across it on dry land, and not drowned our oppressors in it -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He drowned our oppressors in it, and not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and not fed us on manna -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He fed us on manna, and not given us the Shabbat -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He given us the Shabbat, and not brought us near to Mount Sinai -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He brought us near to Mount Sinai, and not given us the Torah -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He given us the Torah, and not brought us into the Land of Israel -- it would have sufficed us!
- Had He brought us into the Land of Israel, and not built the Holy Temple for us -- it would have sufficed us!
This is maybe the most instantly recognisable narrative from the Pesach Haggadah. Of its fifteen stages of redemption -- from bringing us out of Egypt until the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 480 years later (1 Kings 6:1) -- the first five occur in this week's Parashah.
The author of the Haggadah prefaces Dayyenu with the words, "How many good benefits has the Omnipresent bestowed upon us!" using the unusual word ma'alot (literally "ascents") for "benefits." The word ma'alot seems deliberately chosen to link these fifteen stages of redemption with the fifteen Psalms of Ascents (Shir ha-Ma‚alot, Psalms 120-134). These fifteen Psalms of Ascents were sung as part of the most joyous celebration of the year, the Water Drawing ceremony (simchat beit sho'eiva) in the Holy Temple on Sukkot: "Pious men and men of [good] deeds would dance before [the Kohanim and Levites] -- while innumerable Levites with harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets and all kinds of musical instruments were on the fifteen steps that led down from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women, which correspond to the fifteen Songs of Ascents [Shir ha-Ma‚a lot, Psalms 120-134]" (Mishnah, Sukkah 5:4; Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 878).
On each step, they would perform one of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (Radak, commentary to Psalms 120:1). This reinforces the idea that the ecstatic worship of G-d in the Holy Temple is the climax of the redemption ˆ the process that began with the Exodus from Egypt. In simple terms, the purpose of freeing the slaves in Egypt was to have them build the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there to worship G-d.
The precursor of the Holy Temple was, of course, the Tabernacle (Mishkan) in the desert. The Torah prescribes its necessary accoutrements: "gold, silver, and copper; royal-blue wool, purple wool, and scarlet wool, linen, and goat-hair; ram skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood; oil for illumination, and spices for the anointment-oil and for the aromatic incense; shoham stones, and stones for the settings of the Ephod and the Breastplate" (Exodus 25:3-7). Commenting on this, Rabbi Menachem Reikanati (Italy, late thirteenth century) writes: "The Torah mentions fifteen things; corresponding to them are fifteen Psalms of Ascents, fifteen words in the Priestly Blessing [Numbers 6:24-26], and fifteen expressions of praise in Yishtabach [shir, sh‚vachah, hallel-hoda'ot]. These correspond to the Divine Name Yud-Heh [whose gematria is 15]" (Commentary on Exodus 25:3).
We can find a direct parallelism between all the fifteen stages of redemption as expressed in Dayyenu, and the fifteen Psalms of Ascent. The first stage of redemption is the Exodus itself -- "He brought us out of Egypt." This is the theme of Psalm 120: "A Song of Ascents: I cried out to Hashem in my distress, and He answered me."
The fourteenth stage of redemption is the entry into the Land of Israel. The fourteenth Psalm of Ascents echoes this theme: "A Song of Ascents, of David: Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together unified. Like the precious oil upon the head, running down into the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down onto the hems of his garments -- like the dew of the Hermon that flows onto the mountains of Zion, for there Hashem commanded the blessing: Life for eternity" (Psalms 133).
As the Metzudat David (Rabbi David Altschuler and his son, Rabbi Hillel Altschuler, Galicia, eighteenth century) says: "Just as light is good, and just as light is pleasant, so is it when the whole House of Israel, who are called brothers because of the great brotherhood among them, dwell on their own Land" (commentary to Psalms 133:1).
And this is but a necessary prelude to the building -- or, in our generation, the rebuilding -- of the Holy Temple. On the words "Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together unified," Rashi comments: "When G-d dwells in the Holy Temple, the Jewish People are called 'brothers‚' and 'beloved friends‚' and He, too, is together with them."
And so the final Psalm of Ascents brings us to the crescendo, the final stage of redemption: "A Song of Ascents: Behold -- bless Hashem, all servants of Hashem, who stand in the House of Hashem in the nights. Raise your hands in the Sanctuary, and bless Hashem. May Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion" (Psalms 134).
Obviously, the blessings flow forth from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The return to the Land of Israel is but a prelude to the return to the Holy Temple, which is the climax of the redemption.
And who are those "who stand in the House of Hashem in the nights?" There is a consistent theme that day represents the era of redemption, just as night always represents exile. Even in the nights, in the long night of exile, the true servants of Hashem are those who stand in the House of Hashem, who yearn for the Holy Temple, who strive to rebuild it, who never abandon it, even in the night of exile. And it is not enough merely to look toward the Temple Mount from afar, nor is it enough to pray silently on the Temple Mount itself. The true servants of Hashem are those who raise their hands in prayer and blessing in the place of the Sanctuary, worshipping Hashem in the most visible and demonstrative way possible, even in a time of exile when the Temple is as yet absent, and when the Temple Mount is under foreign domination.
We have long since left Egypt, and those of us who are yet in exile can come back to Israel more easily and more comfortably than ever before. And we are just that one final step before the climax of the final redemption -- the cleansing of the Temple Mount of its last traces of exile and the building of the final Temple.