Transforming Darkness into Light
One of the most puzzling points of the structure of the Hagadah is the Halachic obligation to begin the retelling of the events of the Egyptian exodus by emphasizing the lowliness, the disdain, of the Jewish people. The story has to recount how our ancestors were idolators or how we were lowly slaves. How inappropriate! Especially on the night when we are meant to celebrating our status as a kingly nation and a people of princes. It’s absolutely bizarre! Why did the author of the Hagadah insist on this disparaging historical reference?
The answer to this question brings to the fore a basic point of growth in Torah that is so vital for our modern times. It revolves around the understanding of the nature of the world we live in, this world or olam hazeh. Our world was created as a world that the light arose from the darkness “and it was evening and it was morning” declares the verse. The night precedes the day. This is not just some type of halachic quirk that the Jewish day begins at night but rather it is a commentary on the very nature of the way this world and the men that walk it are, in their most essential form.
The way of our world is that nothing starts off in a state of completion, rather the starting point is always imperfection that moves towards a more perfect state. The process of learning a new skill, of growing physically, of acquiring wisdom has to be one of initial deficiency that shifts towards efficiency. From the a lion cub to the tiny shrub, the young lack, they yearn and strive for that which is beyond them and the movement is always from their “darkness” to light.
In other words metaphorically our world is one which begins at night. The starting point is shrouded in darkness, uncertainty and the inevitable failure. But ironically in retrospect, as one gazes back at the many falls along the way the very place at which he stumbles accentuates his later growth, elevates his present more perfected state.
Thus the baal Hagadah in order to fully illustrate the majesty of the nation of Israel must start the story at its low point as through the transition is greatness revealed and through the failings do the successes become meaningful.