Sustaining Spring Showers: Dayenu

2013ftv_oshry_aleezaI’m sure that few will lament the bitter cold winter leaving us as we enter spring  and, with it, the resurgence of life. March definitely has come in like a lion but hopefully will leave like a lamb, giving way to the more mild showers of April.

Rain enables the rebirth of vegetation after winter and is the necessary component to all life. Yet, as rain flows off our roofs and down our streets, it washes toxins into our waterways, converting this essential life force into a pestilence.

Speaking of spring and pestilence, Passover arrives in about a month. It’s interesting to note that the first of the 10 plagues upon Egypt, the plague of blood, relates specifically to the Egyptians’  primary water source, the Nile. In Exodus 7:20-24, we read: “All the waters of the river were turned to blood … and the river stank. … And all the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.”

When I read this, I think of the odor wafting from the stream near my house, the trash along its banks and the posted signs warning us not to enter or drink the water because it is hazardous. Our whole watershed is contaminated; even most well water needs to be treated because of toxic seepage through the soil into the water table. We are experiencing our very own water-based plague.

We are reminded that the quintessential components of the Seder night are to engage, teach and learn. Passover is about re-creating our story: putting ourselves back in Egypt as slaves and reliving the redemption. In a hallmark song found in the Haggadah, we sing: “How many levels of favors has the Omnipresent One bestowed upon us: If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them, it would have been enough — Dayenu!”

Fifteen verses recount the good fortune of blessing and deliverance bestowed upon us. And after each verse, we declare, “Dayenu!” — it would have been enough for us.

The classical interpretation of this song is that it recounts the positive consequences of our actions, which ultimately enabled the redemption, receipt of the Torah and the building of the Temple. Our continued allegiance and perseverance “would have been enough” to warrant the multitude of blessings we received.

As the blessings rise from the lowly to the lofty, it also demonstrates how mediocrity was not sufficient: As a people we strove to rise to a higher level of living and understanding. Coming out of Egypt, we understood that to become a successful nation, we would need discipline and self-restraint. We would need law and education. We would need to sustain ourselves through our actions.

In the spirit of these values and of the upcoming spring, I encourage all of you to learn about our new storm-water regulations and the positive actions you can take to reverse our modern-day plague and preserve our rain as the nourishing life force for which it was intended by visiting baltjc.org/stormwatermanagement.

Aleeza Oshry is manager of the Sustainability Initiative at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. For more information, contact aoshry@associated.org.

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