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“Why do we drink four cups of wine on the Seder Night?” is a question to which most people have only one answer. The answer most people know is that the cups are correspondent to the four terms of redemption G-d promised Moshe. והוצאתי והצלתי וגאלתי ולקחתי. (Shemot 6. Midrash R) This year, I bought a Sefer called Ki Yishalcha, that asks every possible question I can think of and gives all the possible answers, in short. For this question, alone, the author offers 12 answers, with sources!

One of the twelve answers is a Midrash that counts the word כוס, cup, mentioned four times by the Butler, when describing his dream to Yosef. (Bereshit Raba) What in the world is the connection between Pharaoh’s כוס, his cup, to our drinking four cups of wine on Seder night?!?

10 years ago, my neighbor told me the most amazing Dvar Torah. But first, he asked me four questions. 1. Why, in the butler’s dream, did Pharaoh have only a כוס, a cup, not a גביע, a goblet? Didn’t Yosef, who was second to the king, have a goblet? (Bereshit 44;2) 2. If all dreams go after the way you interpret them, (Berachot 52b) why did Yosef interpret the dream of the Butler for good and the Baker for bad? Yosef could have interpreted the dreams the other way around! 3. When Avraham was told the news at the Brit Bein Habetarim that his descendants would be enslaved for four hundred years, (Bereshit 15;13) Rashi says, there, that the count was only 210 years, because the 400 started from when Yitzhak was born. But why does the passuk say that the Jews were in Egypt for 430 years? (Shemot 12;40) 4. Why do we drink only four cups, if there is not four terminologies of redemption G-d used when speaking to Moshe, but seemingly five? Isn’t there, also, another terminology of redemption, והבאתי?

The answer is that Yosef, who was destined to be responsible for his brothers in Egypt, was worried about one thing, until he heard the dream of the Butler. How could the Jews survive the 400 years, stay with a Jewish identity and not fall to the 50th level of impurity, a point of no return? 400 years is too much to endure! Yosef knew he was not just randomly in an Egyptian jail for a crime he didn’t commit, but on a mission for something greater than himself, to provide and bring his brothers to endure the 400 years G-d told Avraham about, and he knew that there was a Seder, a sequence of events that would lead to his redemption. When Yosef heard the dream of the butler, in which he did not use the word גביע, goblet, for Pharaoh, but instead used the word כוס, cup, Yosef got the hint! The numerical value of כוס , is 86. 86 is not only the amount of wine (86cc) that is a Reviit, the required measurement. It is also the numerical value of G-d’s Name Elokim, the Attribute of Judgement. Yosef figured, that G-d was telling him not to worry. There would be 86 years of harsh and bitter slavery, in order to speed up the redemption date, and we would not need the four hundred to be redeemed. (Miriam was named her name for the bitterness of the exile that began in her day, וימררו את חייהם , and she was 86 years old when she left Egypt.) We would be freed from Egypt, after just 210 years.

Now, if we do the math, we will be blown away. Because we left Egypt before the 400 years were up, we needed a total of 430 years to fulfill the decree on Avraham. We did only 86 years in Egypt, but we would need to do another 4 כוס, 4 times 86, to achieve 344, the numerical value of שמד. Every time the Jews go through difficult times, it is called שמד, because we are finishing up the 344-year quota. We did one of the five כוס in Egypt, and 86 times 5 is 430. The reason why we do not drink five cups of wine of redemption, but instead only four, is because we did the first 86 years in Egypt! We drink the four cups, so that G-d will consider that the exile that we are going through is going to cover the other four cups of wine as well. (See Torat Chaim Chullin 92a)

A lot of times in life, we ask questions; we want to know the Seder of events, we want to understand. But this world is the place of lack of understanding, Olam from the root of העלם, hidden. Avraham asked G-d a question, ‘How will I know that I will be given the Land of Israel?’, and we are still dealing with the 400-year decree till today. When Avraham was asked to offer up his son on the Altar, Avraham asked, which son? I have two sons, Yitzhak and Yishmael. G-d told him, your only son, and Avraham answered, both sons are the only son to their mother. And then, G-d said, the son you love, to which Avraham answered, I love both sons. Finally, G-d told him, Yitzhak! If Avraham had not asked questions, he would just have brought Yishmael up as a sacrifice, and we would never have heard from the Arabs again!

The Jews refer to this holiday as Pesach, but G-d refers to it as the Holiday of Matzot. Why? Because Matzah is symbolic of our faith in G-d, in not asking questions, relying on G-d as we enter a barren desert, eating the Matzah as slaves in Egypt. It is what G-d celebrates, each year on Pesach: our faith in Him. On the other hand, we call the holiday Pesach, because we celebrate the fact that G-d believes in us, even when we do not have enough merit. He skipped over the unworthy Jewish homes and punished only the Egyptians. And he skipped over the 400 years, to redeem us at year 210 instead. Why?

It is so interesting. Even if out of four children, only one is a Chacham, only one is wise enough to have an intelligent conversation about the Pesach story, we say, ברוך המקום ברוך הוא. We bless G-d for the children we have. One of G-d’s praises is that He is שמח בחלקו, He is happy with His lot. (Tanna D’ Eliyahu R. 1) But how does that make any sense, if G-d could create anything He wishes? The answer is that חלקו, G-d’s portion, is His People.   כִּ֛י חֵ֥לֶק יְקֹוָ֖ק עַמּ֑וֹ (Devarim 32;9) G-d loves every Jew as he is, and He hopes each and every Jew finds his way to reconnect to Him. We are all on this journey of reconnection, and there is always a Seder in the path to an end that we may not understand. Yet. The answer we give to the smart son, when he asks for the laws of Pesach, is the very last law of the night. אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן- The last thing you eat Seder night is the Korban Pesach, or Afikoman. Why specifically the last law of the night, out of all the laws? Because we tell the smart son who has questions, have patience till the end, and everything will make sense.

One of the reasons we have the four cups is correspondent to the four mothers, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. 1st cup, Sarah, אשר בחר בנו מכל עם of Kiddush, G-d chose our Nation, because Sarah converted the women. 2nd cup, Maggid, corresponding Rivka – ארמי אבד אבי – the battle with Lavan, Rivka’s brother. 3rd cup, Rachel – Birkat Hamazon for Yosef, who provided food for Egyptians and his brothers. 4th cup, Leah – Hallel – she was the first to say thank You to G-d, calling her son Yehuda. (Shlah) Although women are not obligated to sit in the Succah, because they are not commanded to do Mitzvoth that are time-bound, women are still to drink the four cups of wine? Why? Because the four cups are to commemorate the faith of the greatest women of our people.

There is something about Leah’s praise that can blow your mind. Leah had six boys, and in her seventh pregnancy, she prayed that this pregnancy would not take away from her barren sister Rachel’s chance to have her portion of at least 2 tribes. So, G-d gave Leah a daughter, Dina, instead of a son Yosef, who was given to Rachel. Leah thought, hey, at least I can get a son-in-law who is a Talmid Chacham to marry Dina.

Instead, Dina was raped by Shechem, and Dina came home to her mother Leah, embarrassed and… pregnant. Dina’s child Osnat was sent away by the Tribes, and G-d sent an angel to take Osnat down to Egypt, and in the end… she married Yosef… and from that marriage, two more Tribes, Menashe and Ephraim, came into being! Leah did not see the end of it; she died a year or two before Yosef was sold (Sefer Hadorot/ Sefer Hayashar). But she praised G-d knowing, that all along, there is a Seder to every redemption!


Selfie steps to faith, patience, and positivity

  1. Hopefulness is the key to positivity, and the key to hopefulness is looking past the present and into the future. Focusing on the solutions, options, strengths, potential, and not on the problem, where things are stuck, and the weaknesses.  Stop telling G-d how big your problems are. Start telling your problems how great G-d is.
  2. Focus on the purpose of it all, and find the inspiration in it. You are only Pharoah’s slave, or the slave to your problems, if you don’t see G-d behind the problems. It is your choice. Are you Pharoah’s slave? Or are you serving G-d who put this Pharoah that you need to deal with, in your life?
  3. Stop reading the news, or anything that focuses on the bad, on the negative, on information that does not help you personally, in any way, shape or form. Surround yourself with positive people, people who can bring you closer to your goals.
  4. Focus on what G-d gave you choice to actually change, and accept and ignore what He did not give you choice or options of changing. Being active in changing what you can, and active in looking for options and opportunities, empowers you to stay positive and patient, and ironically, helps your faith.

About the author, Yosef

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