Passover: Four for Freedom

Question

Why do we drink four cups of wine (or grape juice) at the Passover Seder?

2 months

Answers

  1. God uses four expressions of redemption in describing our Exodus from Egypt and our birth as a nation:

    1. “I will take you out…”
    2. “I will save you…”
    3. “I will redeem you…”
    4. “I will take you as a nation…”

    Our Sages instituted that we should drink a cup of wine, a toast if you will, for each one of these expressions. We recite the Kiddush over the first cup, we read the Exodus story from the Haggadah over the second cup, we recite the Grace After Meals over the third cup, and we sing the Hallel – Psalms and praises to God – over the fourth cup.

    There is actually a fifth expression in the above-mentioned verses, “And I will bring you to the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance.”

    In honor of this verse we have a fifth cup at the Seder: the Cup of Elijah. This cup is set up for Elijah during the second half of the Seder, but we do not drink it.

    There are a number of explanations of the significance of the various stages of redemption conveyed through each of these expressions. For example:

    1. Salvation from harsh labor. This began as soon as the plagues were introduced.
    2. Salvation from servitude on the day the Jews left Egypt geographically and arrived at Ramses before crossing the Red Sea.
    3. The splitting of the sea, after which the Jews felt completely redeemed, without fear of the Egyptians recapturing them.
    4. Becoming a nation at Sinai.

    While the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation were permanent, the ideal state of perfection has not yet been reached. That is why the fifth expression/cup is different than the other four, and is reserved for the Prophet Elijah. Elijah will announce the arrival of Mashiach, who will bring every Jew in the world to the Land of Israel.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team