Question: Doesn't it seem inappropriate to eat bitter herbs at a meal of thanksgiving and redemption? Shouldn't we eat only tasty foods?
Answer: It is forbidden for us to deceive ourselves. We must realize that there is also bitterness within glorious events, and all the more so on the way to redemption. The Messiah comes when people are not thinking about it, i.e. in unexpected ways. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (97a) says: "Three things only come when people are not thinking about them – the Messiah, finding a lost object, and a scorpion." We can ask: This is an important piece of information regarding the Messiah so that people do not despair, but why do we need to know this about a lost object and a scorpion? The Meharsha answered that this is all one subject because for one person the coming of the Messiah is like finding a lost object, while for another it is like a scorpion. It all depends on his merits (Meharsha ibid.). One who imagines the coming of the Messiah as a rose garden will be disappointed when he sees difficulties and he will rebel against the Redemption, like one who finds a scorpion. But one who knows that Redemption is acquired with suffering will rejoice at everything his eyes see, like finding a lost object. One, however, should not make the opposite error. We are not so pessimistic as to see bitterness in everything. We are realists or, more precisely, we are idealistic-realists. There are people who consider themselves as realists and see everything in black, and there are people who consider themselves idealistic and see everything with rose-colored glasses. Neither one of these will bring the Redemption. We are optimistic and we know that good will overcome evil, and that in a dynamic manner good will continue to conquer evil in the world. The Master of the Universe, the Creator of the World, is good to everything and His mercies are on all of his creatures; "G-d saw it was good," "very good." The Rambam clarified in an organized fashion how our world is mostly good and only slightly evil (Moreh Nevuchim 3, 12). Our world is good, but we must realize from the outset that there is also some bitterness in it. Rabbenu Bachya placed a condition on the service of Hashem that one must be ready to accept the bitterness (Chovot Levavot, Sha'ar Avodat Ha-Elohim, chapter 5). Our revered teacher, Rav Kook, wrote: "This is completely necessary, and any time that he says to himself 'peace, peace' and only pleasantness will follow on a paved way, he is close to the stumbling block" (Musar Avicha, p. 34). The Land of Israel is also acquired through suffering (Berachot 5a). Hillel the Elder is the one who teaches us to wrap the matzah of redemption with the bitterness of maror. He lived in extreme poverty and learned through the chimney, while he was covered with snow (Yoma 35b), and he became the "Nasi" (head of the Sanhedrin) of Israel.