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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rashi's 4 Cups (Part 6: More Svara)

As an introduction to explaining Shmuel and Rava, we revisit Rashi's explanation that the 4 cups are instituted to reflect the 4 languages of redemption.


Chazal wanted to establish an action that reflects these 4 languages and it is relevant that they did this with 4 cups of wine in particular. It could not have been 4 potatoes, the reason being that drinking wine itself is an expression of freedom, or חירות.  Chazal took an action which by its nature expresses freedom and gave it a conceptual content, the 4 languages of redemption, through the halachic requirement of a 'שם ד in the wine.  (Our expression of freedom is not merely a drinking of pleasure, but is a mitzva of drinking ideational cups which reflect true ideas of freedom. See the next post for an expansion on this idea.)

Since the drinking of the 4 cups is built upon an action whose nature is  חירות, it requires a substance like wine that can be vehicle of  חירות.  Shmuel comes to teach that even if you drink undiluted wine, which lacks the chashivus (significance) of diluted wine, it still has the status of wine and can thereby serve as a platform upon which to attach the שם ארבע כוסות.

Rava argues (or perhaps qualifies what Shmuel meant) that the drinking of wine is not merely a means to the 'שם ד, but is itself part of the full expression of חירות. You drink wine, a drink of חירות, in a manner (4 cups) which reflects the true ideas of חירות. Thus, if you use undiluted wine, the underlying drinking of חירות is lacking and it is therefore not a complete mitzvah. However, you still fulfill the core obligation because the undiluted wine does have a שם ארבע כוסות.

In the next post, will take up the 4 languages of geula, what ideas they teach, and how they enhance the expression of חירות of the 4 cups. In order to gain insight into this, we think it is a good idea to see the source in the Torah for the 4 languages of redemption (see shmos 6:6-8 and commentaries,  Ramban in specific).

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