The Meiri says that everything that is taught in the Torah, especially the Moadim, are a means to awaken a person to ponder and understand the specific times of the year. What is special about this day from all other days?
His definition of “מִצְוַ֥ת אֲנָשִׁ֖ים מְלֻמָּדָֽה” (A mitzvah of men, learned by rote) is that one does a mitzvah without pondering every single time what the mitzvah is teaching me, how is it elevating me.
Someone who fulfills the mitzvah and says all the right words but doesn’t consider how this is going to change me, what is it teaching me, why at this moment, will not be able to draw from that mitzvah the Hashem, “The Giver” of the mitzvah is offering the person at that moment. הַיּוֹם.
What happens if you raise people without teaching them how much a mitzvah can change you? Or if people are taught to observe mitzvos just to observe them, but not that the Ribono Shel Olam not only gave them a mitzvah, but a mind to learn from the mitzvah? It is still perfectly possible for them to be awakened, for their souls to be stirred every time they do a mitzvah, if they do the mitzvah because they know Hashem said we should do this, and they accept Hashem’s decree. So at least they are thinking about it and do it to honor Hashem.
But if a person doesn’t even do this, he is doing mitzvos “Derech Mikre”, happenstance, chance.
We can use the time of Pesach to not fall in those traps and not miss an opportunity to contemplate on what Hashem is teaching us on Pesach, and we are prepared to receive from Hashem a new way of thinking and what he is teaching us at this time of the year, we can embrace the concept of time, of changes of time, to awaken us to our obligations.
The Yerushalmi says the change in time triggers the obligation to daven.
The one who begins to daven because one is responding to a change, whether is from morning to afternoon to night, or from night to morning or chol to Shabbos, or from Shabbos to chol or Yom Tov, and davens as a response to change, meaning this change demands a different avodah, then it is possible for the person to become a davener, meaning not someone who just davens, but whose life is a tefillah.
If I have a horrible argument with someone and it puts me into a bad mood, but I am a davener, I understand that I have the opportunity now to change my whole approach and it is gone. That is “וַאֲנִ֥י תְפִלָּֽה” . Meaning, “I am constantly responding to the hisorerus of change in the world”. I am not the person I was when I davened Shacharis, not the person I was when I davened Mincha, and I’m not the person I was 20 minutes ago when I was arguing with somebody. הַיּוֹם is living a life of constant transformation.
This is what Gan Eden Haelyon is! (Upper Gan Eden). Gan Eden Haelyon is when you live in a world in which every moment so to speak , because there is not real time there, with constant expansion, closest to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That is only available to people who are constantly changing and expanding.
Therefore, the way my father Zatz’’l did the Seder, was each step of the Seder, “Kadeish, Urchatz..was an announcement of an opportunity to do something in a way we had never done before. In other words, before we wash urchatz this way, how is washing going to be different from the way we washed last year? Like that.
(Based on Pesach Class 2017 with Harav Simcha L Weinberg, n’’y)