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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 5: More Svara)

In order to explain how Shmuel holds that you can fulfill the 4 cups by drinking one big cup, we first posit that Shmuel is only talking about a specific case, where you first poured 4 separate cups and then combined them into one big cup. This reading is supported by (a) the case of the gemara is described as where you drink them simultaneously and (b) Rashi's explanation that you poured them  into one cup. The case is where first there is a  "them" and then you combine them into one cup.

How does this help?  Why should the history of the cup matter?  The bottom line is that it is now only one cup!

In the seder of the night, as brought down in the mishna and the Rambam, one frequently encounteres the phenomenon of mezigas ha'kos, mixing the WC (wine concentrate) with water and thereby creating a drinkable cup of wine. Since dilution changes the WC from a state most conducive to storing into one most conducive to drinking, it can be conceived of as the first step of the drinking process.

With this introduction, we can explain Shmuel. When you dilute 4 separate cups, you have a שם ד' כוסות of wine with which you have begun the drinking process. You can complete this process of drinking these cups by drinking them separately or, if you want to drink then simultaneously, by combining them into 1 large cup and then drinking them. Since the process of drinking began with the שם ד' כוסות  through the dilution, your drinking is defined as occurring on an entity with a 'שם ד.

Rav argues that since the essence of the process of drinking is the actual drinking itself, even if dilution begins a process of drinking 4 cups, if you subsequently mix them together and drink them as 1, the שם of 4 is obliterated.

The machlokes revolves around whether the שם of 4 which exists on the beginning of the drinking process can be maintained despite the fact that the essence of the drinking process, the drinking itself, occurs with a singular entity. It should be noted that without Rashi's idea of a שם ד' כוסות, which emerged from our first question, we would not have been able to explain this difficult position of Shmuel.  Since all Rashi requires is a 'שם ד in the cups, and not 4 essentially distinct cups, it is possible to conceive of a large cup that can physically be one entity, but still have the 'שם ד. We think that the Rashbam argues with this point and maintains that you need 4 distinct cups, not just a 'שם ד. Therefore, he never entertains the hava amina of 4 one oz shot glasses, nor the position of one large cup being considered as 4. See the Rashbam for how he learns these issues differently.

In the next post, we will discuss the case of drinking undiluted wine. Shmuel said that you are yotzei. Rava says that although you have fulfilled the mitzvah of 4 cups, you have not fulfilled חירות, or freedom. What does this mean? What command is there separate from the 4 cups? Rashi explains that Rava does not refer to some separate command of  חירות, but he means that you do not fulfill your mitzvah fully (אין זו מצוה שלימה) when the wine is undiluted. What does he mean? What is lacking? Have you fulfilled the mitzvah or not? Any ideas?


  1. Bold move.

    So if I mix my wine in two 2 oz. cups and then pour it into one big glass and drink it, even according to Shmuel I'm not yotzei?


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