Dayenu ‘warfare’ is Persian seder tradition


Corinne Darvish says Persian Passover seders bring a level of fun that many non-Sephardic Jews seem to enjoy.

CORINNE N. DARVISH, Special to the Jewish Light

When I tell people how my Persian family celebrates Passover, many people tell me that they want to be Sephardic.  I don’t know that we’ll be able to swing the rice and legumes, but as far as I know, there are no prohibitions on green onions.

During Persian Sephardic seders when it is time for Dayenu, fun and chaos ensues as everyone hits one another with green onions during the chorus. We do this in remembrance of the Jews beaten by whips as slaves in Pharaoh’s Egypt.

To have the best Dayenu, preparation is everything.

First, armor. Bring both your bathrobe or a very large junky shirt to put over your clothes. Now everyone can feel free to whack away without fear of ruining clothes.

Next, strategic positioning. As everyone begins sitting down at the table before starting the seder, make sure you sit next to the people you have identified as your primary targets.

Next, identify the enemy.  For my sister and me, this means our younger brother.  He has been the primary target of our Dayenu fun since he was born. However, in Dayenu, everyone is the enemy. Even the enemy of your enemy is not your friend.  The more people you give a Dayenu, the more points you accumulate.

Last, ammunition. No matter how many bunches of green onions you’ve bought, it’s not enough. Go back to the store and buy more. If you’re going to someone else’s house, bring your own. When they pass the platters of green onions around the table, take more than the person before you.

Now you are ready for war.

Don’t be lulled into the false sense of security you may feel during the first stanza when everyone is standing, still waiting for the signal. Prepare yourself for the Dayenu chorus. As soon as the first “Di” give your primary target a Dayenu. Do this by giving him a good solid whack with your onions. Keep going until the end of the chorus. Show your love by giving your friends and relatives a Dayenu. The more you love someone, the more Dayenus you give them.  Don’t use all your onions in the beginning. Conserve your stash of onions to give as many Dayenus as possible. After the third or fourth chorus, pandemonium and bedlam should fill the room. If you actually finish the song, you’ve done something wrong.  You have not taken full advantage of the distraction your allies have created allowing you to give everyone in the room a Dayenu.

At the end of Dayenu there should be lots of broken green onion pieces all over the floor and everyone should be laughing and exhausted.  With Dayenu, it really isn’t who wins or loses, but how you play the game. Everyone who plays wins Dayenu!