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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 3: Framework)

It seemed to us that there was one thing we could definitely say regarding Shmuel's initial position that the mitzva of 4 cups is fulfilled by drinking 4 cups of 1 ounce each, in light of the fact that the minimum quantity of wine in a cup, everywhere in the Torah, is always 4 ounces.

Essentially, you are not drinking 4 cups of wine.  You are drinking 1 cup.  What is unique about this cup however, is that it is being divided up into 4 parts.  The number 4 exists as a property of a single cup with 4 components.  According to Rashi, what is fundementally required in the mitzva is the 'שם ד (that a proper description of the cups include the characteristic of 4).

There are two ways the quantity 4 can exist in the cups.  Either by drinking a group of cups with 4 individual members (the normal way we think about the 4 cups) or by drinking a cup that has 4 components.

The sense of Rashi only requiring the 'שם ד, or 4 as a property, is that it satisfies the reference to the 4 expressions of redemption (as quoted in the prior post).  It is important to realize that we are not simply saying that the cups of wine must reflect the 4 expressions of redemption.  That might be why the rabanan mandated the mitzva, but the halachic definition is that the rabanan required the 'שם ד in the cups of wine of the night.

We have taken one step to help us understand Shmuel in the hava amina.  However, we are left with a new difficulty.  Even if we grant Shmuel the idea that a 'שם ד is sufficient, by virtue of what does Shmuel define drinking a 1 ounce shot glass of wine as drinking 1 part of a 4 component entity?  Where is the one unified entity of a 4 ounce cup, such that he can say that these separate shot classes are merely components of the larger entity?  It would seems simpler to conceptualize each shot glass as its own cup that is lacking the proper quantity of 4 ounces, rather than saying that together they compose 4 parts of 1 cup.

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