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Why four cups of wine by the seder?

Why four cups of wine by the seder?


Wine is considered a royal drink, one that symbolizes freedom. It is the appropriate beverage for the nights when we celebrate our freedom from Egyptian bondage.

Many reasons are given for drinking four cups of wine. Here are some of them:

When promising to deliver the Jews from Egyptian slavery, G‑d used four terms to describe the redemption (Exodus 6:6-8): a) "I shall take you out..." b) "I shall rescue you..." c) "I shall redeem you..." d) "I shall bring you..."

The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exilesWe were liberated from Pharaoh's four evil decrees: a) Slavery. b) The ordered murder of all male progeny by the Hebrew midwives. c) The drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptian thugs. d) The decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.

The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exiles: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and our current exile which we hope to be rid of very soon with the coming of Moshiach.

The words "cup of wine" are mentioned four times in Pharaoh's butler's dream (Genesis 40:11-13). According to the Midrash, these cups of wine alluded to the Israelites' liberation.

According to Kabbalah, there are four forces of impurity (anti-divinity, or kelipah). On Passover, when we celebrate our physical freedom, we also celebrate our liberation from these spiritual forces. Our physical departure from Egypt was a reflection of our spiritual one—we were pulled from the clutches of depravity and impurity and set on the path to receiving the Torah and connecting with G‑d.

Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Discussion (13)
March 9, 2017
Dear Rabbi,
Being familiar with your work I trust you completely. But I would like to study these ideas in their sources. Can you please share the sources?
March 18, 2015
so there is 4 sons and 4 mothers ... are there 4 husbands or was that just the 4 cups of wine ! BEST jewish joke 2015
June 18, 2014
"Cup" is mentioned more than 4 times in Genesis 40.
Paris, France
March 2, 2014
When was wine introduced as part of the Seder?
Jose Vega
July 15, 2013
Must the wine be alcoholic?
The blessing is for fruit of the vine. So is grape juice ok or must it be proper wine?
March 21, 2013
Re: four cups
Many of the reasons given here, including perhaps the most famous one about the four cups corresponding to the four terms used to describe the redemption, are from the Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash. In fact, much of the present day Haggadah was around even before Talmudic times.
Yehuda Shurpin for
March 21, 2013
Four Cups
While all the meanings for the Four Cups are modern reflections and interpretations for devotional use, the real reason is that in ancient times wine was expensive and for Pesach our poor could not afford it. The Mishnah tell us that every table should have at least Four Cups of wine (liquid measure), even if it came from the "community fund". In Mishnaic times (200 C.E.) our modern Seder was not yet formed and the use and function of the Four Cups was different then today.
Dr. Ismael Otero
New Mexico
April 5, 2012
ALternatively, there's four cups of wine because the entire Seder is a mnemonic device based on fours.
put wine, water, vegetable, and matzoh at the four corners.
Wine, wash hands, dip veg, aficomen (main thing) then the ...FOUR tellings of passover, (seond cup...and restart the order)
wine, wash hands, vegetable, then matzoh (the main meal). third cup, other prayrers, then fourth cup.
havre de grace, md
March 17, 2012
Four Cups of Wine
Do we know actually when the tradition of adding the four Cups of Wine was added to the Exodus 12 institution?
Freehold, NJ, USA
April 23, 2008
Four Cups of Wine was too much for me!
My sincere appreciation for Mr. Silberberg's articles that are filled with biblical knowledge. It has helped me gain insight.

Although I drank four cups of Kosher red wine during Seder, it was too much for me all at once. On the other hand, I look at the generational faith that brought freedom from bondage and Seder accomplishes that freedom for me. I hope when we drink four cups of wine, we are looking forward for that freedom (by faith) that has kept us slaves to our inhibitions. Hope this Seder will be meaningful to all of you.

Have a blessed Pesach!