Rav Eliyahu Dessler in Michtav Me’Eliyahu explains that there were two dimensions to our liberation from Egypt. On one hand, it was a physical liberation. We were no longer in Egypt as slaves. This liberation could have occurred through the workings of politics rather than with the outwardly supernatural and miraculous rescue by Hashem. Yet, if that had occurred, the results could have been devastating. We could have been forever indebted to those who released us. We could become overconfident in our own prowess and forget that it is Hashem that controls all. We would become blinded by that which is seemingly natural in the workings of the world. We would become enslaved to these false notions which have always misled mankind. Only the openly divine intervention of Hashem could make us truly free from the impurity of Egypt. Only the openly divine intervention of Hashem could make us capable of seeing the truth: Hashem controls all, and only Hashem can help us. Only because of that are we free.
Towards the end of Avadim Hayinu, we say that even if we were all wise and understanding, the obligation to engage in the mitzvah of Sipur Yetzias Mitzrayim, telling about our departure from Egypt, remains. This implies that even if you are not arriving at any new insights or interpretations from that which you have said previously, there is a mitzvah to increase your telling. Rav Avrohom Trop was puzzled by this. What is so special about repeating what was said previously; what is the gain; why is this so important that it is called a mitzvah?
He answers by quoting the Gemora in Pesachim which says “Bechol dor vador, chayav adam…, “In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he went out of Egypt.” If a person truly felt that he was taken out of Egypt, Hashem performed miracles for him, that he was released from bondage and brought to freedom by Hashem, he would definitely want to repeat the story. The nature of man is such that he enjoys recounting those adventures and miraculous happenings in which he was involved. Telling the story over would give the person pleasure. Therefore, in order for us to demonstrate that we truly feel as if we were taken out of Egypt, we increase our telling over of the story. This demonstration is so important that there is a mitzvah in increasing our telling over about our departure from Egypt.
The last line of Avadim Hayinu and the passage of Ma’aseh b’Rabi Elazar which follows it stress the same point: the telling about our departure from Egypt on this night is the mitzvah we are to be focusing upon. The Hagadah tells us that all who increase their telling about our departure above and beyond that contained in the Hagadah are praiseworthy. The Vilna Gaon says that this is true no matter the intellectual capacity of the person. We see from the incident with Rabi Elazar that the sages we so engrossed in their discussion about our departure that a student had to summon them in the morning and inform them that it was time to recite the morning Shma. These sages were on a very high level of intellect and comprehension. Therefore, their discussion continued throughout the night and into the morning. However, any person who, according to his own capacity, continues his discussion, is praiseworthy.
The introduction concludes with the source for the Biblical commandment of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim, remembering our departure from Egypt, year round. Rabi Elazar ben Azaryah tells us that he did not merit knowing the allusion made to this mitzvah until Ben Zoma spoke about it. The Rambam explains that in reality, Rabi Elozor was a youngster. However, due to his increased diligence in learning, he physically weakened and signs of old age set in. It is for this reason he said ” I am like seventy years old.” Rabi Elozor is telling us that although he joined himself in the company of sages and toiled and exerted great effort in learning to the point that he aged, he still did not merit knowing this allusion until Ben Zoma said it.
With this explanation of the Mitzva of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim, the Hagada concludes its introduction. The Hagada continues (as we will in the next regular posting) with the demonstration of how the Mitzvah tonight is different.