The Hebrew phrase "Hallelu-YAH!" means, "Let us praise the
Breath of Life!" Sometimes the Breath/ Wind/ Spirit of the world comes as a
Hurricane of change. We shake with awe. And if the Hurricane knocks down
pyramids of arrogance and power, we can praise God in joy.
And so today, when a modern Pharaoh fell.
Hundreds of our readers and members this past week joined in writing President
Obama to urge that he insist that Mubarak go –- and take his vice-president, the
Torturer-General of Egypt – with him.
I am sure this helped. But only helped.
It was the non-violent power of a people awakened, the Breath of the Egyptian
millions breathing in non-violent concert, that has taken the first step toward
freedom. But of course that is only the beginning.
There is a strange song in the Passover Seder. It goes:
If we had gotten to the Red Sea but it had not split to let us through,
Dayenu! – That would have been enough for us! ---
If we had gotten to Mount Sinai but no Torah had been revealed, Dayenu! –
That would have been enough for us! ---
And so on for 15 verses, each ending with the chorus, Dayenu! – That
would have been enough for us! ---
At first reading, this seems ridiculous. It would NOT have been enough.
But on deeper reflection, we realize that after every victory, we should pause
to celebrate. Another verse will come, another step must still be taken. But if
we never celebrate, we will burn out before we can take the next breath, the
next step. "Dayenu" in the song is like Shabbat in the week. Pause, sing,
dance, catch your breath, reflect, learn, love. The work-week will come, must
come, soon enough.
The fall of Mubarak is only the beginning. Birthing an Egypt that is free and
democratic, that does not build its government on American military aid, that
can pursue a true peace with Israel that includes peace for, from and with the
Palestinians, led by their own freely chosen government -- each step must now be
Birthing an America that does not try to control the world but can join in a
planetary community – still other steps to take.
Can we take a breath to notice -- that when the possibility of democracy in the
Arab and Muslim worlds is born, it is not at the point of American bayonets and
"Predators" jammed down the throats of Iraqis or Afghans, but from the grass
roots of their own societies?
Everyone has noticed that the Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals have stirred new
energy throughout the Arab world. I hope they are also stirring new thought, new
energy, among many other peoples, including our own, to shake off the stupor
brought upon us by our own Pharaohs – Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Army, and the media
that tell us that their control of us is for our own good.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is the joyful sound of Dayenu
in one hand & the quiet persevering work of Not Dayenu in the other –
hand over hand, climbing Freedom's ladder; step by step, walking Freedom's
With blessings, especially joyful tonight, for shalom and salaam; for a true
peace rooted in justice and in truth --
Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the director of the Shalom Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org