Why Isn't This Night More Different?
The Hidden Persuaders
In the 1960s, a new form of advertising was discovered and made illegal almost immediately. Madison Avenue realized that flashing one single frame of an advertizement into a movie playing at 24 frames per second left a subliminal message imprinted in the mind of the viewer, a message of which he was totally unaware. Because of its extremely subtlety, the message managed to sneak under the defenses of the consumer and plant itself into his subconscious. And without knowing it, the next time he was shopping, he had this overpowering attraction to buy Fidofeed over his usual brand of dogfood.
If the purpose of the Seder is to recreate the Exodus from Egypt, why isnt the Seder more realistic? We eat a little matza, some not-very-bitter herbs. We recline like princes. We tell over a story. Some have the custom to place a piece of matza on their shoulder and walk around the table, symbolizing the dough that baked flat without leaven on the backs of our forefathers as they left Egypt. Why isnt this night more different than all other nights? Why dont we do things which are more vivid, more realistic?
Why doesnt each town put on a Pesach extravaganza with fireworks and amazing special effects like a rock band on tour? Or at home, why dont we make the Seder much more realistic? For example, half the guests could come dressed as Jewish slaves and the other half as Egyptian taskmasters. The evening would commence with the "slaves" building a large wall with bricks and mortar. Periodically, the "Egyptian taskmasters" could come along and give them an encouraging thwack with a broom. In the interests of fairness, halfway through the evening the roles would be reversed. And just before midnight, everyone would sit down together (on cushions) and have a nice Pesach meal. Wouldnt we feel much more that we had "left Egypt" after that?
And yet, the Torah, which sees to the very depths of the psyche, mandated very subtle observances to create the reality of coming out of Egypt.
The Stealth Bomber
Over the passed twenty-five years, the American defense budget has spent billions of dollars on a bomber which can fly to its target at very low heights, beneath the level of detection of enemy radar. The construction of the bomber is non-metallic. It is invisible to radar. It was dubbed the "stealth bomber."
The hidden persuasion of an advertisement consisting of a single frame in a film running at 25 frames a second is more powerful than a campaign of celebrity endorsements, billboards and prime-time barrage. Why? Because we can shield ourselves only from that of which we are aware.
The nature of physicality is that it wants to reject spirituality. To sneak spirituality past our physical radar, we must conceal the spiritual like a stealth bomber: A piece of matza, some bitter herbs, telling over a 3,300 year-old story. These are things that look very anodyne and unassuming from the outside. Inside however, they contain tremendous power.
By means of the seemingly subtle experiences of the Seder, the subliminal spiritual message of Pesach sneaks under the defenses of the coarser aspects of our physical make-up and lodges itself in the depths of our souls.
Thats why this night isnt more different that all other nights.