Passover: Contrast & Gratitude
Quite interesting is the unique nature of Passover: it is the one holiday that's actually two holidays! There was the Egyptian Passover and the Passover for Generations. Succos and Shavuos did not have earlier holiday versions. Those two holidays recount events, not celebrations. But our Passover recounts the "First Passover" holiday. What's the idea behind God's design of this duality?
The Talmud discusses the requirement to recite the Haggadah, but we must commence the story with our bondage and only afterwards, recount our freedom. We eat the matza to recall the dry, hard bread fed to us in slavery, but we must also recline while eating it. Another contrast.
I believe the reason for all these contrasts is to generate a deep appreciation for the Creator who emancipated us. A true feeling of thankfulness comes about only through realizing our previous state of deprivation, and our ultimate redemption through God's miracles. To create this appreciation, God commanded a First Passover "in Egypt" highlighting our bondage; to be contrasted with the Passover today, as a freed people. The dual nature of Passover intends to present us with "before and after" snapshots. Eating matza recalls poor man's bread, but drinking four cups of wine highlights our freedom, and our Redeemer: each cup correlates to a term God used describing His planned redemption.
The Rabbis taught we must commence with our history as slaves so when we finally discuss our freedom, we again personally appreciate what God has done for us. This expression of freedom takes on the form of reclining, and our appreciation is expressed through singing the Hallel. We also have an obligation to view ourselves as if we each exited Egypt. Again, this drives at engendering sincere thanks to God for His many kindnesses.
This appreciation must be transmitted to future generations. So we take time at the Seder and explain to each child – on his and her own level – the story of the Exodus. In fact, so important is our appreciation, many Torah commands are "remembrances of the Exodus."
With this appreciation, we feel compelled to understand the goal of the Exodus: receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. God took us out, so as to give us a system that will be most rewarding.
This Passover, let us attain this focus that our freedom was intended to offer us unburdened lives where we can engage in studying God's Torah and fulfilling its laws, realizing its benefit, and marveling at His great wisdom throughout our lives. Happy Passover!