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Dayenu: A Passover Poem for Jewish Disability Awareness Month

Dayenu: A Passover Poem for Jewish Disability Awareness Month

This poem was initially published in Moment magazine. The idea for it came to me at Passover as I watched my young nephew, who has been diagnosed and treated for childhood apraxia of speech, at a family seder.

At Passover, we read aloud from the Haggadah
and we mention four children. 
When I was growing up, we laughed
as each found its match around the table:
the wise child, the rebellious, the simple.
But now is another time, and the laughter stops 
when we reach the child who is unable to ask.

We look at our little boy, whose brain and muscles
and vocal chords don't always communicate.
Once upon a time, we didn't know when he'd be able to ask, 
when he might utter intelligible words, let alone questions, 
syntactically incorrect as they may still be.
Now, he sings Dayenu with all the other children.
Elijah smiles. Miriam dances. We applaud.

Erika Dreifus, a member of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J., lives and writes in New York. She is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories, which was named an American Library Association/Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Erika is currently at work on a full-length poetry collection; her poems have been published by Jewish Journal, Forward, Lilith, Moment, Tablet, and many others. Visit Erika online at and follow her on Twitter @ErikaDreifus, where she tweets on "matters bookish and/or Jewish."

Erika Dreifus

Published: 2/19/2014

Categories: Jewish Holidays, Passover, Jewish Life, Health & Wellness, Family
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