There are fifteen segments to the Pesach Seder. These correspond to the fifteen steps that led into the Ezras Yisroel, the part of the Temple where a ritually prepared person would be allowed to enter.
The fifteen stairs leading up to the Temple were unique in that one didn’t just run up those steps. Each one of these steps had its own song. Tehillim [Psalms] 120-134 are the fifteen Shir Hama’alos, songs of the steps. Each step up toward the Temple had a different song and thought associated with it.
The vision of Yaakov, our ancestor, was of a ladder heading from earth to heaven. A ladder has rungs. No one makes a leap from earth to heaven, no one can go from spiritual emptiness to understanding the greatest depths of spirituality in a split second moment. There are steps leading one to greatness.
In fact, the moon mirrors that concept, too. It doesn’t go from nil to full-size right away. Rather, the moon builds up its image, day by day, until the fifteenth day of the month it displays itself in its fullness.
The word Kavannah is often used to refer to concentration in prayer and in following Torah commandments. The root of the word Kavannah is Kivun, direction. In order to get the maximum out of our prayer or out of our lives, we have to live it with direction.
As we head to Pesach, if we want the full effect of Pesach to hit us and penetrate our souls, we have to prepare for it. We have to have “kivun” direction where we want to head. And then, we must set up rungs to ascend. Map out how we can progress in do-able steps.
That is one of the messages of the Seder. We want to get from slavery, from being (in the words of Henry Higgins) “squashed cabbage leaves” to royalty, to the high point of the Seder which is Nirtzah, which means wanted/beloved by G-d. How to get there? Not by trying to do a rocket launch into spiritual orbit. But by taking it step by step, enhancing our knowledge bit by bit, increasing our observance day by day, growing and gaining another rung on the ladder of spirituality.
That is the secret of the fifteen-step Seder, to teach us that there are steps we can take to get to great heights. If we are willing to do it, step by step.