As erev Pesach approaches, many are reminded of the prohibition against consuming matzah on erev Pesach. In fact, the Mishna Berurah (471:12) rules that many have a custom not to eat matzah from the beginning of Nissan. Both halachos highlight a unique component of the mitzvah of matzah: the requirement of anticipation. Few, if any, other mitzvos have built-in rules limiting behavior prior to the time of obligation; yet matzah represents an obvious exception. Perhaps another exception is the mitzvah of sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim. Though our haggadah (quoting the Mechilta) only says "yachol me'rosh chodesh," one may have thought the obligation to discuss Yetzias Mitzrayim begins on rosh chodesh, the Vilna Gaon (OC 430:1) understands this as prohibitory, disallowing earlier discussions of the Exodus. Of all the holidays and all the mitzvos, why are those relating to Pesach unique in their requirement to create anticipation?
Another question, addressed in one way previously (here), is why the Torah stresses the need for Pesach to be celebrated in the spring. Not only does the Torah mention the connection between Pesach and the spring season ("shamor es chodesh ha'aviv"), but the gemara derives the need to implement leap years to preserve Pesach's warm season.
Aside from the preparations and weather, another area of focus, if not obsession, on Pesach is the children. So much of our seder ritual is devoted to either creating curiosity among the children or transmitting the story and message of the Exodus to the children. Though the general value of education is understood, why on Pesach are we especially focused on the children?
Finally, when the first of the four sons is introduced, the ben ha'rasha, his question, "mah ha'avodah ha'zos lachem," is interpreted by our sages as a hostile attack on religious tradition. Yet, when Moshe prophesized the exchange, the Jewish people reacted by bowing. Why the positive emotional reaction to seemingly negative news?
Beginning with this final question, we can begin to attempt to gain clarity. Rashi comments that the nation bowed from excitement upon hearing they would be redeemed and have children. In other words, the promise of a future was the greatest news they could receive, regardless of the details regarding the exact quality of that future. As Viktor Frankl often points out in "Man's Search for Meaning," a slave is stuck in a hopeless state. He does not know if and when his slavery will end, and eventually gives up on any future, instead living day to day. Like Jews in the Holocaust, Jews in Egypt were stuck in a world of past and present that lacked any semplance of a future. For this reason, just as the announcement of the ben ha'rasha excited the Jews with news of a future, so too the focus of the entire evening is the children who represent Jewish hope.
Of all the seasons, spring represents hope. The flowers begin to bud, the trees to blossom, and the weather to warm. Though the season is itself pleasant, it represents hopes for an even brighter future, the epitome of what Pesach is all about. Similarly, only Pesach regulates preparations, requiring anticipation. How fitting to have an obligation to anticipate the holiday which restored hope into the Jewish psyche.
This may also explain why so much of the Exodus, and so much of our seder text, focuses on the future, both then and now. When taking the Jews out, Hashem "proved" to Moshe that He was sincere through a sign: "ta'avdun es ha'Elokim al ha'har ha'zeh," tell the Jewish people that their slavery is not merely ending, but their lives are being given purpose; to arrive at that mountain (Har Sinai) and serve Me. The promise of a destiny and meaningful future inspired a depleted people. Similarly, at the seder, although it would otherwise seem to have no place, the Beis Ha'Mikdash is a constant part of our dialogue. We say (or sing) dayeinu, enumerating many praises to G-d for taking us from Egypt, but the text concludes with His bringing us to Har Sinai and ultimately Har Ha'Bayis. Perhaps on Pesach, we are obligated to look forward to a brighter future, just as our ancestors did on the original Pesach. Even the pesukim we recite as the core of maggid, chosen from the Parshas Bikkurim in Ki Savo, according to Rav Meyer Twersky are selected because of their ending, "va'yivieinu el ha'makom ha'zeh," You took us into the land of Israel. Finally, unlike all other holidays (except Yom Kippur), we openly long for our future when we exclaim "l'shana ha'ba'ah bi'Yerushalayim."
Tonight, as we spend hours recounting the past, let us not forget the importance of looking forward to our collective future. May we merit to tell the story of the original korban pesach while bringing the korban pesach in Yerushlayim.