Did you know? This passage contains an idea that we also repeat at the end of the Seder, which is that we hope to be in the land of Israel next year. The Big Questions in this passage are:
1. Where are we now? Why is it not good enough to want to be here next year?
2. In what way are we slaves now? What does it mean to be a free people?
Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Haggadah Shel Pesach (p. 29-30)
"This year slaves," while the yoke of flesh and blood is upon us, it is impossible to be complete with crowns, because slaves never wear the garments of princes, "Next year, free people" who are worthy of crowns, which is like Rashi's interpretation of the passage in the Talmud: "And their crowns on their heads - like free people."(Talmud Bavli Rosh Hashanah, Ch. 1) This is a prayer as well as a promise, that every year the end comes closer, the essence of holiness approaches, despite the fact that on the surface it seems to be the opposite, but when the sacred time of the festival begins, we speak of the inner dimension of matters.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Pesach Haggada (p. 24)
Now we are here; next year in the land of Israel - At the very moment that we gather to remember the past, we speak about the future. The seder brings together the three dimensions of time. Before the meal, we will the story of redemption in the past. During the meal, we experience it in the present. After the meal, as we conclude Hallel, and say, "Next year in Jerusalem," we look forward to redemption in the future.
What is distinctive about Jewish time is that we experience the present not as an isolated moment, but as a ling in a chain connecting past and future. The very fact that they had been liberated in the days of Moses gave our ancestors confidence that they would be liberated again. The Jewish people would return to the land of Israel. Here we see one of the most profound instincts of the Jewish mind: memory is the guardian of hope. Those who forget the past become prisoners of the present. Those who remember the past have faith in the future. We can face it without fear, because we have been there before.
Now - slave; next year we shall be free - There are two words for freedom in Hebrew, hofesh and herut. Hofesh is "freedom from." Herut" is "freedom to." Hofesh is what a slave acquires when released from slavery. He or she is free from being subject someone's will. But this kind of liberty is not enough to create a free society. A world in which everyone is free to do what he or she likes begins in anarchy and ends in tyranny. That is why hofesh is only the beginning of freedom, not its ultimate destination. Herut is collective freedom, a society in which my freedom respects yours. A free society is always a moral acheivement. It rests on self-restraint and regard for others. The ultimate aim of the Torah is to fashion a society on the foundations of justice and compassion, both of which depend on recognizing the sovereignty of God and the integrity of creation. Thus we say, "Next year we shall be benei horin," invoking herut, not hofesh. This statement is an aspiration; "May we be free in a way that honors the freedom of us all."