Tagged: 4 Cups Seder
March 30, 2020 7:05 pm at 7:05 pm #1844937abukspanParticipant
Cups, Captivity, and Calculations:
ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה
Now the sojourning of the people of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years (Shemos 12:40).
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 91a) describes a legal claim the Egyptians brought before Alexander the Great. They were trying to recoup the vast fortune that the Yidden had taken from Mitzrayim at Moshe’s behest. Their argument was that the Jews had only borrowed this great wealth, and now it needed to be returned.
Geviha ben Pesisa advocated on behalf of the Jews. His counterclaim was that 600,000 people left Egypt (Shemos 12:37), who had been in Egypt for 430 years (ibid. V.40). Geviha demanded, “Pay us wages for that many people working for those many years.” After thinking it over for three days, the Egyptians realized that whatever was taken from their country was not adequate compensation for all those years of servitude.
Yet, the Maharsha asks an obvious question: We did not work in Mitzrayim for 430 years. We weren’t even there that long; we were only in the country for 210 years. And most of those years were not spent as slaves. When we first descended to Egypt, we were treated royally. We were the family of Yosef, the savior of Egypt. Only after all the shevatim died did the mistreatment begin.
In fact, the Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:11) writes that there were only 86 years of hard work. (The gematria of אלה-ים, which alludes to Middas HaDin, is 86.) These years began from the birth of Miriam, Moshe’s older sister; that is why she was called Miriam, which comes from the root of מר, bitter, since that was when the Egyptians began to embitter the lives of the Jews, as it is written, “Vayemareru es chayeihem ba’avodah kashah – They embittered their lives with hard work” (Shemos 1:14).
So how could Geviha ben Pesisa state that we were there for 430 years and claim wages for all those years? The Maharsha says that the 86 years were so harsh that it was like 430 years.
Rav Marcus Lehmann, in his Haggadah shel Pesach, explains it differently. It’s true that we did not work for 430 years, but only 86. On the other hand, although 600,000 people left Egypt, five times that amount did the actual work. The Torah tells us, “Va’chamushim alu Vnei Yisrael mei’eretz Mitzrayim – And the Children of Israel were armed when they went up from Egypt” (Shemos 13:18). Rashi gives an alternative definition for the word chamushim, armed. חמשים can come from the word חמשה, which means five; one fifth of the Bnei Yisrael ascended from Egypt, while four fifths died during the Plague of Darkness.
Thus, three million people worked for 86 years, which is the same as 600,000 people working for 430 years: 600,000 x 5 =3,000,000; and 86 x 5 = 430.
Geviha ben Pesisa did not have to fear that the Egyptians would question the validity of his claim, even though he said that the Jews had been in Egypt for 430 years. For if they would have countered that this was not the case, he could have brought up the abovementioned fact.
Rav Lehmann writes that based on this, we can bring a hint to why we have four cups at the Seder. כוס, cup, is 86 in gematria. We raise the כוס four times to thank Hashem for the four times כוס – 4×86 – which he took off of the calculation. By all rights, we should have worked for 430 years, five periods of 86, or כוס. (Our accounting of 430 years actually began from the bris bein habesarim, when Avram was told that his children would go into exile. The 400 years that Hashem told him about at that time began with the birth of Yitzchak; see Rashi Bereishis 15:13.)
Hashem, in His kindness, only had us work for 86 years, one period of כוס.
This is as it says in Tehillim (116:13): “Kos yeshuos essa u’ve’Sheim Hashem ekra – I will raise the cup of salvations and the Name of Hashem I will invoke.”March 31, 2020 3:47 pm at 3:47 pm #1845387March 31, 2020 9:41 pm at 9:41 pm #1845442abukspanParticipant
Meaningful Hesber on an alternative reason for the 4 Cups
The Cup of Redemption:
וכוס פרעה בידי… ואשחט אותם אל כוס פרעה ואתן את הכוס על כף פרעה… ונתת כוס פרעה בידו
The cup of Pharaoh is in my hand… I squeezed them into the cup of Pharaoh, and I gave the cup on the hand of Pharaoh… and you shall give the cup in Pharaoh’s hand (Bereishis 40:11-13).
When the cupbearer of Pharaoh told his dream to Yosef and when Yosef interpreted it, the word cup appears in the verses four times. We are told (Shemos Rabbah 6:4, Yerushalmi Pesachim 10:1) that the four cups at our Pesach Seder correspond to the arba leshonos shel geulah, the four terms of redemption, which are mentioned in the Torah (Shemos 6:6-7). They are: “Ve’hotzeisi – I will take you out” of Egypt; “ve’hitzalti – I will rescue you” from servitude; “ve’ga’alti – I will redeem you;” and “ve’lakachti – I will take you” as My people.
The Yerushalmi (ibid.) says that another reason for the four cups is the four times that the cup of Pharaoh is mentioned in the above verses. What message were Chazal trying to convey in this association? What lesson can we learn from the cup-bearer’s dream and those four cups of Pharaoh, when we drink our four cups of wine at the Pesach Seder?
Rav Eliyahu Klatzkin, in Chibas HaKodesh (Cheilek HaDerush #1), offers a beautiful explanation of this Yerushalmi, which takes into account the actual context of the four cups of Pharaoh – namely, the dreams and ambitions of an imprisoned man, the sar hamashkim.
What was it that led Yosef to give a favorable interpretation to the cup-bearer, and a moment later to give a dismal interpretation to the baker? This question takes on great significance in light of the Gemara (Berachos 55b), which states that a dream follows its interpretation, and is often a reflection of what the dreamer thought about during the day. Although the Gemara says that the interpretation must be similar to the dream, why was Yosef unable to find something within the dream of the sar ha’ofim that could be interpreted favorably, as he did for the cup-bearer?
As we read the cup-bearer’s rendition of his dream, we note the repeated emphasis of the cup of Pharaoh, which indicates a person longing and even obsessed to return to his former post. The cup-bearer had obviously taken pride in serving Pharaoh before, and hoped to be given the chance to return to his job. Thus, when Yosef listened to the dream, he gave a positive interpretation. Since the cup-bearer was a person who only wanted to serve his master, any offense he may have committed (in which a fly was found in the cup of Pharaoh) was no doubt inadvertent, and he deserved another chance.
In the dream of the baker, however, there is no indication that he longed to return to serve Pharaoh. He never mentioned or described himself as baking for or serving his master, only that there was a basket of Pharaoh’s bread above his head. In fact, he should have carried the bread in his hand, where it would have been safer from birds. Signs of loyalty or devotion to his master were starkly absent from the dream. It seems he never cared about the royal personage he served; he only wanted the job so that he could fill his stomach with royal fare. The offense, in which a stone was found in the bread of Pharaoh, was a true offense to Pharaoh. According to the letter of the law, he deserved to be punished for his wrongdoing. Yosef could not find any redeeming factor in the dream to enable him to interpret it favorably. Therefore, Yosef delivered the interpretation that the baker would be killed and would never return to his position.
This, writes Rav Klatzkin, is why Chazal mandated four cups at the Seder, corresponding to the four cups of Pharaoh. When we drink our wine and reflect on our liberation from Egypt, we should have in mind something akin to the longings and ambitions of the cup-bearer. He only wanted to be freed in order to return to serve his master and to continue to show his devotion to the king. In the same vein, when thanking Hashem for deliverance from Egypt, we should also recall the true purpose of freedom.
Whatever pit we find ourselves in, our longing and prayer for redemption should be only to serve Hashem. Our ambition must be to keep His Torah and mitzvos and bask in His radiance, not the personal pleasure or physical perks that come with geulah and freedom.
And just as the longing to serve was the catalyst for the cup-bearer’s freedom, so, too, our desire and longing to serve Hashem will be the merit that frees us from our pits, and allows us to go from darkness into light.
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