What is the point in celebrating an event that has already happened?

This question applies to our birthday, anniversary or our Exodus from Egypt.

The American Heritage Dictionary brings two definitions for celebration:

The act of observing a day or event with ceremonies.

The act of showing happy satisfaction in an event.

According to the Kabbalah there is yet another phenomenal aspect of celebration. We can best understand this through a story with R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

He was incarcerated for some heinous crime (like teaching Torah). One of the techniques the prison used to disorient the prisoners was to lock them in a cell with no light and confuse their concept of night and day. Once a guard came in R. Shneur Zalmans cell and told him it was night time; he should get ready to go to sleep. The Rabbi responded, No, it is 2:13 in the afternoon. The guard was astonished and asked R. Shneur Zalman how he knew the time.

The Rabbi explained one can perceive physical time from spiritual time. Each daylight hour is another configuration of one Divine name. Each hour of night is a configuration of another Divine name. If one knows the Divine configuration, R. Shneur Zalman concluded, one can know the time of day.

Each day and each hour has a Divine configuration for that time. This energy gives the strength and direction for the events of the day. When a special event occurs on a day, there is a unique Divine energy for that event. Each year on the anniversary of that special event, the energy is remembered, is recalled and it recurs.

The physical circumstances have changed so the actual event does not happen again. But the spiritual force is happening again. So, on our birthday, the divine energy that was present to generate our birth is reinstated. This is called our Mazal (as in Mazal Tov). It is our unique connection to G‑d.

On Passover, the unique Divine energy was one of redemption. On this day we were redeemed from Egyptian bondage and Egyptian mindset.

Each year on the day of Passover the unique Divine energy is once again present and accessible. This energy is even more pronounced at the Seder. This was the exact time of redemption. So each year it is once again the time of redemption.

Liberation from Egypt: What it did and didn’t do

When G‑d emancipated us from Egypt, this was only the beginning. It was a physical liberation and but not a total spiritual one. The purpose of Yetziat Mitzrayim, G‑d’s taking us out of Egypt, was to open the path for future personal and collective redemption. The entire purpose of celebrating the Seder is to evoke that initial power of breaking through our boundaries.

So we are not celebrating something that happened 3,000 years ago, but on the contrary. What happened 3,000 years ago was a celebration and initiation of our potential for freedom today.

The Hagaddah expresses this thought at the very beginning of the Seder with Hei Lachma Anya... (before the Mah Nishtana.) This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in Egypt....This year we are still slaves, next year we will be free. This year we are here. Next year in the land of Israel.

What is bread of affliction? Simply, it means Matzah.

The Kaballah explains that bread refers to what we ingest intellectually. So our ancestors ate intellect of affliction. Their experience was uninspired. We are still working on developing this inspiration. What occurred on Passover was the potential for liberation. G‑d took us from the land of Egypt - Mitzrayim. In Hebrew Mitzrayim means constriction. G‑d took us from an intrinsically constrictive state and gave us the ability to reach Him.

However, our inspiration may still be in the process of maturing. This year we are here. We may still be in a state where we cannot truly feel the Divine presence. But tonight we have a chance to reach the stars. Next year we will be free.