כוס של ברכה
Cup of Blessing

QUESTION: The Gemara (Pesachim 119b) says that when the resurrection takes place, Hashem will make a feast for the tzaddikim, and when Avraham will be given the Cup of Blessing he will say, “I am unfit to recite the blessing because I had a son Yishmael.” Yitzchak will say, “I am unfit because Eisav was my son.” Yaakov will turn it down, “Because I married two sisters, which the Torah will later forbid.” Moshe will say, “I cannot be the one to recite the blessing because I was not privileged to enter Eretz Yisrael,” and Yehoshua will decline it saying, “I am unfit, for I did not merit to have a son.” He will then say to David, “Take the cup and recite the blessing,” and David will respond, “I will do so, and it is fitting for me, as it is stated, ‘I shall raise the cup of salvations, and the Name of Hashem I shall invoke.’ ” (Psalms 106:13)

Why will David consider himself so qualified for the honor?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 46a) rules that, “Ba’al habayit botzei’a ve’orei’ach mevareich” — “The host breaks the bread [makes the Hamotzi] and the guest recites the Blessing After Meal.”

King David was destined to be stillborn. Fortunately, Adam gave him as a gift 70 years of his life and, thus, he lived in the world for 70 years (see Zohar 1:168a).

A guest is one who is dependent on the favor of others. Thus, King David, who really was not supposed to be in this world and consequently not supposed to have anything to do with the resurrection of the dead, considered himself a guest in the world and also at the resurrection feast. Hence, being the guest, it is halachically proper that when the Host — Hashem — makes the meal, he should be the one to take the Cup of Blessing and recite the Blessing After Meal.

(הרי"ף על עין יעקב)

"לידך המלאה הפתוחה הקדושה והרחבה"
“Your full, open, holy, and generous hand.”

QUESTION: It should have said, “yadecha hakedoshah” — “Your holy hand” — before describing His benevolence? It does not seem to fit between the descriptions of “open” and “generous”?

ANSWER: In the Ba’al Shem Tov’s hand-written Siddur, which was acquired by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and is currently in the library of Agudat Chassidei Chabad, instead of “hakedoshah” — “holy” — it says “hegedushah” — “overflowing” — (as in “maleih vegadush” — “full and overflowing”).

(עי' ספר ברוך שאמר, וערוך השלחן קפ"ז:ו)

"לחן ולחסד ולרחמים...וכל טוב"
“Grace and kindness and mercy... and all good”

QUESTION: Why do we beseech Hashem to bestow upon us fifteen Divine favors specifically?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Shabbat 117b) it is customary to eat two meals daily, one in the morning and one in the evening, and on Shabbat there is an additional meal. In keeping with this custom, the Gemara says that the charity fund is required to provide the impoverished with fifteen meals, which would last one for the entire week. Thus, during a period of a week, one recites the Grace After Meals fifteen times. In merit of this, we ask Hashem to bless us with fifteen acts of Divine kindness.

(בהמ"ז עם פירושו של ר' נתן ז"ל שפירא, נדפס לראשונה בלובלין שנת של"ה)

"וכל טוב ומכל טוב לעולם אל יחסרנו"
“...and all goodness, and may He never deprive us of all good things.”

QUESTION: This request sounds redundant?

ANSWER: There are people who have received Hashem’s blessings of goodness in abundant measure. They have a beautiful family, plenty of food and a wardrobe full of clothing. However, due to their poor health they are unable to enjoy His blessings. Thus, we pray that He give us all good things and the opportunity to enjoy them in good health.

(סי' אוצר התפלות בפי' עיון תפלה)

"הרחמן...והוא יוליכנו קוממיות לארצנו"
“May the Merciful One...and may He lead us upright to our land.”

QUESTION: How can this be reconciled with the Gemara (Kedushin 31a) that says it is forbidden for a person to walk four cubits “bekomah zekufah” — “with an erect posture”?

ANSWER: Eretz Yisrael is our holy land, and all Jews yearn to live there. Those who do not reach it during their lifetime will ultimately come there in the days of techiyat hameitim — the resurrection. However, they will have to roll through tunnels under the earth until they reach the holy land (see Bereishit 47:29, Rashi).

Our prayer to Hashem that He “lead us upright to our land” asks that we merit to come to Eretz Yisrael happily and healthily during our lifetime and not, G‑d forbid, have to roll through underground tunnels to reach it.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"ממרום ילמדו עליו ועלינו"
“From On High, may there be invoked upon him and upon us.”

QUESTION: To what is “alav” — “upon him” — referring?

ANSWER: In the physical food there are “nitzotzot” — “Divine sparks of G‑dliness” — which are elevated when the Jew eats l’sheim Shamayim — for the sake of Heaven — i.e. to have strength to serve Hashem in learning and prayer, each one according to his level.

Thus we pray that “From On High, may there be invoked alav — upon him — i.e. the food being elevated, and aleinu — upon us — the Jews who eat for the sake of serving Hashem, such merit which will bring enduring peace.

(אגרת קדש כ"ק אדמו"ר מוהריי"צ ח"א ע' ר"ד)

"כי אין מחסור ליראיו"
“Those who fear Him suffer no want.”

QUESTION: Do those who fear Him have so much?

ANSWER: When Yaakov met Eisav and presented him with a gift, Eisav said, Yeish li rav — “I have plenty.” Yaakov continued urging him to take the gift and said, “Please accept my gift because yeish li kol — I have everything” (Bereishit 33:9-11).

The reason that Yaakov stated “I have everything” while Eisav said “I have plenty” is that the wicked are never fully satisfied. They are not content with what they have and always want more. On the other hand, the righteous are happy with whatever Hashem gives them, which they consider to be “everything.” Hence, the G‑d fearing suffer no want, for they are happy with what Hashem has allotted them and they do not torment themselves over any perceived deficiency.

(סי' אוצר התפלות בפי' ענף יוסף)

כוס של אליהו
Cup of Eliyahu

QUESTION: Why do we add a cup for Eliyahu when we celebrate the Pesach seder?

ANSWER: Eliyahu once complained to Hashem that the Jewish people were not faithfully observing the mitzvah of circumcision. Hashem did not receive this complaint very well and told Eliyahu, “My children are trustworthy, and from now on you will be present at every Jewish brit to witness their dedication.” Thus, at every brit a special chair is set aside for Eliyahu (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 20).

The Torah states (Shemot 12:48), “No uncircumcised male may eat of it [the Pesach-offering].” Therefore, Eliyahu, who is present at all britim, appears in each home to testify that the participants of the seder are all eligible to eat from the Pesach-offering, and a cup is prepared in his honor.

(הר"מ חאגיז בספר ברכת אליהו)

כוס של אליהו הנביא
Cup of Eliyahu the Prophet

QUESTION: Why is it called the “Cup of Eliyahu the Prophet” (see Shulchan Aruch Harav 480:5 and Mishneh Berurah 480:10) and not just the “Cup of Eliyahu”?

ANSWER: Eliyahu is the one who will eventually clarify all unresolved questions in halachic matters. He will not do this through prophetic powers because, “Torah is not in heaven” (see Bava Metzia 59b; and Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah 9:1). Rather it is through his vast knowledge of Torah that he will have all the answers. However, as a navi — prophet — he will prophesy to the Jewish people the coming of Mashiach, as stated in Malachi (3:23), “Behold I will send you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem (revelation of Mashiach).”

At the Seder we open the door for Eliyahu to invite him to visit with us and bring us the good tidings that Mashiach is on his way. In his honor and in eager anticipation of the fulfillment of his prophecy, we pour a cup of wine, representing the “kos yeshu’ot — “cup of salvations” — of the ultimate redemption, which he will announce — even tonight.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר, פסח תשכ"ג - הגש"פ דברי נגידים למהר"ל)

כוס של אליהו הנביא
Cup of Eliyahu the Prophet

QUESTION: At the Seder table we drink four cups of wine in honor of the four expressions of redemption (Shemot 6:6-7). Why don’t we drink a fifth cup for the fifth expression (ibid. 6:8), “veheiveiti” — “I shall bring you”?

ANSWER: The first four expressions of redemption, “Vehotzeiti” — “I shall take you out.” “Vehitzalti” — “I shall rescue you.” “Vega’alti” — “I shall redeem you,” and “Velakachti” — “I shall take you” — are addressed to the entire Jewish community. However, the fifth expression, “I will bring you to the land...and I shall give it to you as a heritage” (ibid. 6:8), refers to the giving of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people and does not apply to the tribe of Levi, because they did not have their own portion of Eretz Yisrael. They only had 42 cities plus the six cities of refuge which were given to them by the other tribes (Bamidbar 35:6). Since “I shall bring you” does not apply to everyone, we do not drink a fifth cup.

Nevertheless, Kohanim and Levi’im drink four cups at the Seder, because they were only exempt from the “avodat perach” — extremely difficult slave labor — (see Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 5:16), but they too definitely felt the pressure and wickedness of the Egyptians, and eagerly awaited the Exodus from Egypt.

* * *

Though we do not drink a fifth cup for veheiveiti, an additional cup is placed on the table and called “kos shel Eliyahu Hanavi” because he is the prophet who will announce the coming of Mashiach. When Mashiach comes, Eretz Yisrael will be divided into 13 portions, including one for the tribe of Levi. The tribes of Ephraim and Menashe will jointly possess the one portion of the tribe of Yosef, and the 13th portion will be for Mashiach (Bava Batra 122a).

Hence, it is appropriate to associate Eliyahu with this cup, because when he heralds the coming of Mashiach, all the Jews will be given a heritage in the land and drink a fifth cup for “Veheiveiti” — “I will bring you to Eretz Yisrael — and give it to you as a heritage.”

(הדרש והעיון - שמות)

* * *

Incidentally, the word “veheiveiti” (והבאתי) has the numerical value of 424, which is also the numerical value of Mashiach ben David (משיח בן דוד), whose revelation will be heralded by Eliyahu the Prophet.

(אמרי נועם)

פותחין הדלת
Open the door

QUESTION: Why do we open the door after eating the afikoman?

ANSWER: The episode related in the Torah regarding Yaakov’s receiving the berachot from Yitzchak took place on the night of Pesach, when we perform the Seder. The two goats which Rivkah and Yaakov prepared for Yitzchak represented the Pesach-offering and the Chagigah-offering, and the angel Michael sent along wine for the four cups (Bereishit 27:9, Rashi. Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosafot 27:25).

Yitzchak concluded the meal with eating the afikoman. This is evident from his telling Eisav, “Your brother came ‘bemirmah’ — with wisdom — and took away your blessing” (ibid.27:35). The word “bemirmah” (במרמה) has the numerical value of two hundred and eighty-seven, which is also the numerical value of the word “afikoman” (אפיקומן). Yitzchak told Eisav, “Your brother is indeed very wise. He gave me the afikoman before you arrived, and thus, I am forbidden to eat any more food tonight.”

The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 66:5) explains the pasuk “And Yaakov had scarcely left from the presence of Yitzchak his father when Eisav his brother came back from his hunt” (ibid. 27:30) to mean that Eisav swung open the door to the tent and Yaakov stood behind the open door until Eisav came in and then he quietly departed behind his back. To commemorate Yaakov’s being saved through escaping via the open door after Yitzchak ate the afikoman, we too open the door after eating the afikoman.

(מנחם ציון מר' מנחם מענדל זצ"ל מרימונב, פרדס יוסף בראשית כ"ז, כ"ה)

* * *

Alternatively, the door is opened to recall that it is “leil shimurim” — “a night of protection” — and that we are not afraid of anything. In merit of this emunah — faith — Mashiach will come and Hashem will pour his wrath upon the nations (Shulchan Aruch Harav 480:4).

QUESTION: What is the connection with delet — door — and Mashiach?

ANSWER: The numerical value of “delet” (דלת) is 434, the same as Mashiach ben David (משיח בן דויד). (Throughout the book of Chronicles the name David is spelled with a yud — see also Veyevareich David in the daily Shacharit.)

פותחין הדלת
Open the door

QUESTION: The Rebbe in his notes on the Haggadah writes that one of the reasons for opening the door is so that “Eliyahu should come in and bring the tidings of redemption.”

Eliyahu comes to the brit of every Jewish boy and also to every Seder on the night of Pesach. Why do we only have the custom of opening the door for him at the Seder?

ANSWER: When the Baal Shem Tov entered the heavenly abode of Mashiach and asked him, “When will the Master come?” he responded, “When your well-springs will spread forth on the outside.” To hasten the coming of Mashiach, the Rebbe has dedicated his entire lifetime to spreading the teachings of Torah andChassidut to the “outside world.”

Since the pouring of the extra cup is an expression of prayer that the prophet Eliyahu speedily proclaim the coming of Mashiach, we open the door to indicate that the Torah spirit which prevails in our home should also emanate to those who are on the outside, and through this we will merit Eliyahu’s arrival to announce the good tidings that Mashiach is coming.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי, ועי' בקובץ שאלות פירושים וביאורים חי"ג)

"שפוך חמתך אל הגוים"
“Pour out Your wrath upon the nations.”

QUESTION: When asking Hashem to pour out His wrath upon the nations who have “devoured Yaakov” and destroyed the Beit Hamikdash, why is it necessary to mention, asher lo yeda’ucha” — “that do not acknowledge You” — and “asher beshimecha lo kara’u” — “that do not call upon Your Name”?

ANSWER: Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says that it is a halachah and a known fact that Eisav hates Yaakov (Bereishit 33:4, Rashi). He uses the term “halachah” to emphasize that just as halachah is not based necessarily on reason, likewise Eisav’s hatred for Yaakov is inherent in him and not dictated by reason, logic, or rationale.

Thus, we ask Hashem, “Pour out Your wrath upon the nations who have made the Jewish people suffer.” They cannot justify their actions by claiming they did them l’sheim shamayim — for Hashem’s Name — i.e. to punish the Jews for their abandonment of Torah, since “they do not acknowledge You and do not call upon Your Name.” This proves that they were not motivated by the desire to fulfill Hashem’s wish, but simply by hatred.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם ר' מרדכי ז"ל בנעט אב"ד ניקלשבורג)

"שפוך חמתך אל הגוים...כי אכל את יעקב"
“Pour out Your wrath upon the nations... For he has devoured Yaakov.”

QUESTION: Since the verse begins with “goyim” — “nations” — in plural, instead of “achal”“he devoured” — it should have said “achlu”“they have devoured”?

ANSWER: The world consists of many nations. Each has its selfish interests and aspirations, and often one competes against the other. The common denominator which unites them all, however, is their hatred for the Jewish people. When it comes to harming the Jews, suddenly they all unite, forming one entity. Thus, the verse states, “achal et Yaakov”“he has devoured Yaakov.”

(הגש"פ עם פי' ילקוט שמעוני)