With the exception of the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus, the mitzvot of Pesach night are all about eating and drinking.
In Temple times we were obligated to eat the Korban Pesach, and even today we must eat matzah and marror and drink the four cups of wine.
Why are we so busy eating and drinking during this special night of the Exodus? When we look at the other festivals, we have mitzvotsuch as hearing the shofar, taking the Four Species, reading the megillah, etc. – actions that don’t involve food.
Pesach, on the other hand, is all about what we eat and what we must not eat. In fact, according to the Vilna Gaon, every time we eat matzah during Pesach – not just during the Seder – we are fulfilling a mitzvah.
So again, why is Pesach packed with mitzvot that deal with eating?
When we look at the beginning of the Torah, we find the concept of food is a central part of the story. Adam and Chava’s sin involved food. They ate from the Tree of Knowledge, despite the prohibition against doing so. Humanity started on its sinful path with an act of eating.
Some 2,448 years later, the birth of the Jewish nation took place on Pesach. As we left Egypt to become an independent nation in our own land, we were given mitzvot that involve eating. There are many guidelines as to how to eat the Korban Pesach and about what exactly constitutes chametz and matzah.
Just as Adam and Chava received guidelines about what to eat and what to avoid, the Jewish nation is provided with guidelines regarding our food consumption. According to Kabbalah, Pesachnight is an opportunity to rectify the first sin of humanity.
On Pesach night we are surrounded by mitzvot involving eating and drinking. A mitzvah doesn’t only mean a command; it is also a way to bond. Mitzvot are ways for us to bond with God.
The mitzvot of Pesach night, which are related to eating, serve as a reminder that in our physical world we can elevate the physical and connect it to the spiritual.
That is exactly our mission as Jews.
According to the Talmud Yerushalmi in Kiddushin, eating and drinking, along with all other physical pleasures, are intended by God our enjoyment and benefit. However, what separates us from the animal kingdom, where enjoyment can only be derived from the physical, is that we as humans can elevate physical pleasure to a higher spiritual level.
For example, we manifest self-control over what we eat by the halachot of kashrut. On Pesach night we elevate different categories of food and drink – marror comes from the raw plant world, the Korban Pesach comes from the animal world, and so on.
These foods serve as reminders of how to connect to God through His physical creations. On the other hand, we had to be slaves in Egypt, a land of physicality at the lowest level, in order to see what can happen if the physical is misused and corrupted.
Fifty days after the Exodus we received the Torah, which grants us the privilege and the responsibility of redeeming and making holy God’s physical world.
Pesach night is God’s gift to us, serving as a prime example of how we can enjoy the physical by elevating it to new spiritual heights.