ABSTRACT: Ilu Hotsianu... Dayenu

A. Azmon and Z. Shafir (eds.), Festschrift in honor of Joseph Tabory, Alon Shvut: Tevunoth, 2013, pp. 305-332  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of this study is to analyze in unprecedented way a well-known song: "How many favors did God grant us…. Dayenu" that appears in the Passover Haggadah. In a critical interdisciplinary analysis from the standpoint of literary, linguistic and historic criticism, this song is compared to other poetry from Biblical to Medieval Piyyutim to define where and when this song was composed.

This song is a eulegy, praising the Lord for important events in the history of Israel, and some parallel songs, such as Psa. 78 and Hosh'anot are also discussed. Its literary structure is a litany, and it is built with shirshur (linking one stanza with the former by a repetition). There are 15 lines in this song, and it seems there is no significance in this number. The song is accompanied with a prosaic text, in a kind of "double-versions" edition, known already in the Bible (The Song of the Sea and The Song of Deborah). After discussing the song's structure, its language is discussed: the abundance of words, its vocabulary, its syntax and so forth. After that, the affinities of the song with some early Piyyutim (befor Yosi ben Yosi an Yanai) are studied.

Investigating the different aspects of "Dayenu" shows with relative confidence that this song was composed in The Land of Israel ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.