What Does "Dayenu" Mean?

If you’ve been to a Passover seder (ritual meal), you’ve probably already belted out a chorus of “Dayenu.” Bouncy and rollicking, the song is easy to pick up and very fun to sing, but it also contains an important message.

Related: Five Ways to Sing Dayenu

The word dayenu means “it would have been enough” in Hebrew, and the song expresses deep gratitude for multiple things – not only liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt (which is what the story of Passover is all about), but also the gift of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), which the Israelites received after they left, and the eventual return to the land of Israel. These things make us happy, but more specifically, they make us grateful. It’s no accident that Passover is a time for expressing gratitude. Gathering together to share good food and quality time with loved ones is a hallmark of the holiday. Dayenu reflects the Jewish value of Same’ach B’Chelko — being content with what you have.

Related: Being Happy With What We Have

The Talmud teaches, “Who is rich? Those who are happy with their portion” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). The Jewish value of Same’ach B’Chelko is about counting your blessings and feeling satisfied with what you have. If singing "Dayenu" has you curious about contentment, here are some more stories to explore with your family:

All of Me! A Book of Thanks

All of Me! A Book Of Thanks by Molly Bang

Recommended for ages 2 to 3

From fine feet and grand hands to hearing ears and a thumping heart, this book teaches children and reminds adults to enjoy a sense of gratitude as part of the family in this big, amazing world.

All the World

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

As this lovely book reminds us, the world is filled with beautiful things -- big and small. The trick is to remember to take note of them.

Bagels from Benny

Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

While working in his grandfather’s bakery, Benny learns the joys of giving and receiving, caring and gratitude.

The Cholent Brigade

The Cholent Brigade by Michael Herman

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Monty Nudelman is a neighborhood mensch -- every time it snows, he's out there shoveling the walks for all his neighbors. But one day, his back gives out! What do you think his neighbors do?

Good Night, Laila tov

Good night, Laila Tov by Laurel Snyder

Recommended for ages 2 to 3

A family car trip turns into an exploration of the natural wonders of the seashore, woods, and fields, In gratitude and to make the world a better place, the parents plant trees. As the day progresses, the family adventure is marked by the recurring refrain: "good night, laila tov.”

Here is the World

Here is the World by Lesléa Newman

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

The cycle of the Jewish year is a world of joy, significance, and wonder, especially for a new baby encountering each holiday for the first time. As the leaves turn gold, flutter to the ground, and are ultimately replaced by fresh green buds, we follow the Jewish year from one milestone to the next. Read an interview with the author.

I Say Shehechiyanu

I Say Shehechiyanu by Joanne Rocklin

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

When you’re a small child, life is a series of firsts -- first steps, first words, first teeth, first snow! Jewish tradition has a special prayer, the Shehechiyanu, that recognizes the importance of each and every first.


PJ Library's Passover Hub
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