The Thrill of Gratitude
In his autobiography, Vladimir Nabokov describes the gratitude he feels in the presence of a rare butterfly. “This is ecsatsy, and behind ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern – to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”
When we describe the Ten Plagues, the miracles of the Exodus, and the Splitting of the Sea to our children in the Haggadah, we want them to feel exactly as Nabokov felt about his rare butterfly, without the “tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”
We want them to feel so overwhelmed by God’s miracles and love that they experience ecstasy and the thrill of gratitude. That is why the Haggadah is not satisfies with Ten Plagues and one miracle at the Sea, but expands the Plagues into 40 and then 50 and insists that 50 miracles, no, 200, no, 250 miracles occured at the Sea. We want our children to experience the same ecstasy that our ancestors felt while observing the Plagues and while crossing the Sea.
We want that ecstasy to expand into the thrill of gratitude and we therefore list the 15 miracles of the Dayeinu immediately after the description of the Splitting of the Sea.
The ecstasy and gratitude must be “like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love,” so we conclude Maggid with that most powerful expression of love – the Hallel.
We do not need the rare butterfly. We need only to reflect on our history.
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