As we sing and eat our way through the night there are plenty of customs and rituals to give definition and meaning to the evening(s).
I would like to focus on one of many poignant moments during the sedarim. Yachatz -meaning dividing- is when the Seder leader breaks the middle Matzoh into two. The smaller piece is maintained with the other Matzot, while the larger one is put aside and eaten before the benching (blessing after the meal).
This Dividing Ceremony is one of the key moments the children look forward to at the Seder. If they somehow manage to acquire the larger piece, the Afikomen, a present or reward is usually promised for its return.
On a practical level we understand that since we were slaves in Egypt, we eat impoverished style bread (Matza) that did not have a chance to rise. But, there is something much deeper we can learn from this.
HaRav Shimon Schwab z”tl reveals a beautiful insight into Yachatz in the name of his father.
He explains that the two pieces of Matzah represent two entirely different worlds. The smaller piece on which we pronounce “the bread of affliction” represents “Olam Hazeh” which means the everyday world that we live in. It is the world that has ups and downs, sickness and health, and a myriad of imperfections. The bigger piece that we are commanded to eat after we are sated–al HaSovah, represents “Olam HaBah,” the world to come. The world that everyone has a portion in, if earned. The eternal reward is what one has to look forward to after a life filled of worthy tasks and productive behavior (perhaps that is why we eat it after we are full).
The Seder night is unique because it is the only time that so many Mitzvot are fulfilled in the night time. Aside from lighting Chanukah candles (which is not biblically commanded), holiday mitzvot are reserved for the day-time. We shake a Lulav in the day, blow a shofar in the day; so why do we eat Matzoh and read the Haggadah at night? Why is this night different?
The answer is because Passover has a redemptive quality. It is the holiday that reminds us through ritual and prayer that our exile is only temporary. Our celebration manifests that the same way the Jews were redeemed 3300 years ago from Egypt (at this time), so too will we be redeemed again. It is the time of the year we remind ourselves with comfort that there has been a time and there will be a time when darkness turns into light and night turns into day. That is why we celebrate the Passover Seder at night.
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