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Friday, March 23, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 1: Facts)

The gemara in Pesachim 108b states:
א"ר יהודה אמר שמואל ארבעה כוסות הללו צריך שיהא בהן כדי מזיגת כוס יפה שתאן חי יצא שתאן בבת אחת יצא... שתאן חי יצא אמר רבא ידי יין יצא ידי חירות לא יצא שתאן בבת אחת רב אמר ידי יין יצא ידי ארבעה כוסות לא יצא... מיתיבי ד' כוסות הללו צריך שיהא בהן כדי רביעית אחד חי ואחד מזוג אחד חדש ואחד ישן... קתני מיהת כדי רביעית ואת אמרת כוס יפה אמרי אידי ואידי חד שיעורא הוא מאי כדי מזיגת כוס יפה דקאמר לכל חד וחד דהוי להו כולהו רביעית
We will try to understand the sugya primarily as explained by Rashi (as he is understood by the Rashbam and Tosfos through their questions and comments).  Rashi comments on the gemara:
כדי מזיגת כוס יפה. שיעורו רובע רביעית כדי שימזגנו ויעמוד על רביעית לוג דחמרא דלא דרי על חד תלת מיא לאו חמרא הוא וקא סלקא דעתך דבין כולם קאמר שמואל דליהוי רובע רביעית יין: שתאן חי. שלא מזגו במים: בבת אחת. עירה ארבעתן לתוך כוס אחד: ידי יין יצא.ששתה ד' כוסות: ידי חירות לא יצא. כלומר אין זו מצוה שלימה: כדי רביעית. בין כולן קשיא לשמואל דאמר רובע רביעית דהיינו כוס יפה
The core of the gemara is first the position of Shmuel followed a qualification of Shmuel's position by Rava and a disagreement about Shmuel's position by Rav.

Shmuel:  The 4 cups of wine must have 1/4 of a רביעית of concentrated wine (we will be assuming throughout the sugya for simplification that a רביעית is 4 ounces).  If however, you drank them as wine concentrate (WC) without dilution (שתאן חי), you have still fulfilled your obligation.  (Properly diluted wine is 1 part  WC and 3 parts water).  If you pour the 4 cups into 1 bigger cup and then drink them (שתאן בבת אחת), you have fulfilled your obligation.

Rava:  If you drink it as undiluted wine, your fulfill the basic obligation of drinking 4 cups, but you are lacking in the complete mitzva which demands freedom.

Rav:  If you pour them all into 1 big cup and drink them, you do not fulfill your obligation of 4 cups.  Rather, you only fulfill your requirement of drinking wine as part of the Torah mandated mitzva  of happiness on Yom Tov.

The gemara has 2 different ways of understanding Shmuel's ambiguous statement that "the 4 cups of wine must have 1/4 of a רביעית of concentrated wine (1 ounce)."

Hava Amina:  Shmuel meant 1 ounce of  WC among all 4 cups combined.  Meaning, each cup of the 4 cups of wine is 1 ounce (.25 oz WC and .75 oz of water).  The total amount of wine in all 4 cups combined is 4 oz, or 1 רביעית.

Maskana:  Shmuel meant 1 ounce of WC in each cup.  Meaning, each cup of the 4 cups of wine is 4 ounces (1 oz WC and 3 oz of water).  The total amount of wine in all 4 cups combined is 16 oz, or 4 רביעית.

There is a lot to define in this sugya, even by limiting our attention to Rashi.  In order to simplify matters for ourselves, what issue should we try to understand first?  What are the basic difficulties with this sugya according to Rashi's explanation?


  1. in terms of Rashi, one Q I have is what kind of hava amina he posited for Shmuel-- could Shmuel really have meant that each cup would be only 1 oz.? Isn't that less than a rviis according to everyone? If so, each cup is lacking a proper shiur and this should not even be a hava amina.

    Related to that, and addressing your other Q of what to try to understand first, it seems to me that a basic, overall Q here is: what is the mitzva of the "daled kosos" such that Shmuel can entertain situations that would otherwise not be good as a regular kos? (I am assuming that in general, e.g., by a regular kiddush, a kos with one rviis, or a kos that is not mazug, etc. is not permissible for kiddush and this scenario would for sure be no good, yet over here it is considered a real option - if that premise is wrong, then this Q is probably off). It seems that daled kosos is not a matter of 4 kosos that each have to meet the criteria that we are used to for a regular kos yayin for kiddush.

    1. In terms of your second question, we're not certain, but we think the only real anomaly is the allowance of less than four oz


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