In the Haggadah, we read of R’ Gamliel who states that “One who has not said ‘Pesach, Matzah, and Maror’ [at the Seder] has not fulfilled his obligation.”
- Pesach reminds us of the miracle of Hashem passing over the homes of the Jews on the night of Makas Bechoros, the Death of the Firstborn.
- Matzah reminds us of the miracle of the Jews leaving Egypt with no time to bake the dough on their back into bread.
- But what of Maror? Maror recalls the bitterness of the terrible slavery.
Is a reminder of the darkness of slavery really necessary at a celebration of Freedom?
Yes, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Throughout the Seder night, we must actively retell the story of the Jewish People’s redemption from slavery to salvation by experiencing it for ourselves. Through songs and our five senses, we relive the experience of the Exodus. The more we delve into our history and our People’s memory, the more powerful our personal experience of Exodus. It is in this way that we can fulfill the Sages instruction that “in every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he himself has come out of Egypt.”
The Rebbe writes that we must taste the bitter Maror to experience the hardships of slavery for ourselves. For it is only when we experience slavery, that we can truly taste the Matzah – the taste of freedom. The Exodus is the entire journey from Exile to Redemption. We verbalize it in the telling of the Haggadah, digest it in the form of Maror, Matzah and wine. As we “Pass-over” the centuries, we vitalize memory to the point of actual re-experience, and history is made current and real.
This year, Pesach acts as an anniversary of sorts to a very different time just one year ago. Last year, many spent the holiday alone and isolated, the world was filled with worry and despair, terrible news seemed a constant companion, and our community feared for the unknown future. The taste of Golus, Exile, was very real.
As we sit down to our Seders this year, it is crucial to process that experience, to relive the Maror, the hardship, even momentarily, to see how far we have come. Our memories of last Pesach honor what was and help us gain gratitude for how far we have come. Just one year later, we now have hope for a different future. We may not be quite there yet, but we see a light at the end of a long, dark and difficult tunnel, and we can celebrate our personal Exoduses’ in whichever ways we have found freedom and joy again.
As we read the Haggadah this year, with hopes of “getting back to normal”, let us once again relive the power of Redemption. But we cannot be satisfied with just a return to what was. As we hope and pray for a better future, we want to experience the true hope for a completely different tomorrow.
If we have learned anything this past year, it is that the world as we know it can be changed in a moment. It recalls a time when our ancestors were taken out of Egypt at a moment’s notice. How time stopped and freedom beckoned. This Pesach, we do not want to resume life. We want to enter a new world of Moshiach. As we are set to relive over a millennia of Jewish history on the Seder nights, we are ready to taste the Matzah and wine of the Ultimate Redemption.
May it be speedily in our days.
Wishing you a Kosher and Happy Pesach,
Rabbi Zalman Shneur