It always sounds a little bit like Passover at our house. Nearly every day, our 3-year-old son sings “Dayenu.” He warbles it in the bathtub. He belts it out as he strums his ukulele and marches around the living room and kitchen. Sometimes he hums it before he goes to sleep.
You’re thinking that I should say, Dayenu (enough)? No way. Simon is equally enthusiastic about singing “David Melech.” Jewish music has become a part of the fabric of our family. Simon likely does not understand the meaning of the tunes or that they are even connected to his faith. Does it matter? Not at this point. He can learn the significance later. Judaism early on in his life is a natural, vibrant presence.
By contrast, Jewish music was a small presence during my childhood. My parents loved the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof and singing “Hava Nagila” is an early memory. Otherwise, I rarely heard Jewish music. My family never went to temple services nor did we socialize much with other Jews because there were hardly any in our rural Ohio community. As a child, I was only a little interested in my faith. My lack of enthusiasm stemmed from lack of exposure. How can you love or even like something if it’s akin to an acquaintance who visits on occasion?
My husband Pavlik and I became closer to Judaism as adults. Hence, Simon’s experience has been vastly different than ours as children. Members of our temple chorus quip that Simon is a “chorus baby.” Pavlik and I joined the chorus at least a year before Simon’s birth. I sang in High Holy Day services when I was seven months pregnant with Simon. We brought him to rehearsal in his stroller during the first months of his life. He sometimes cooed. Other times, he slept.
He has been a regular at Tot Shabbat services and occasionally accompanies us to early evening services. He learned “Dayenu“ and “David Melech” first, I believe, because last year, I practiced the songs incessantly on my piccolo in preparation for a temple parade. I was memorizing the notes. Pavlik often sang the words as I practiced, and Simon caught on. Then this year, he took a class for preschoolers at our temple, and such songs were a part of the package.
Every time I hear Simon sing “Dayenu” or “David Melech,” I smile. Sometimes, I sing with him. But most times, he solos. He, like his Mom did not that long ago, is finding his Jewish voice.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog, Jewish Muse.