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Wednesday, Adar 22 5783 (Hakhel Year) / March 15, 2023


The Pesach (Passover) holiday when we celebrate our freedom from bondage, begins Wednesday night, April 5. It begins with the Seder on the first night of Pesach. In the Diaspora we celebrate a second Seder on the second night of Pesach. The following are questions and answers concerning the Seder(s):


Q.   In many congregations, Kiddush over wine, is recited in the synagogue on Friday nights and festive holidays, after the evening service.  Why is the Kiddush not recited in the synagogue on Pesach night?


A.     Since the cup of wine, over which the Kiddush is recited, is the first of the four cups which we drink at the Seder, the Kiddush cannot be recited in the synagogue. It must be done at the Seder where we drink the other three cups of wine.


Q.    Why is the night of Pesach different than other holidays, that we drink four cups of wine?


A.    Several reasons are given for the four cups of wine.  According to one opinion in the Talmud, they represent the four expressions of redemption which G-d usedregarding the liberation of the People of Israel from Egypt.


In Exodus (6:6-7) G-d tells Moshe, "Therefore say to the Children of Israel: I am the L-rd, and I will bring you out ("V'hotzeti") from under the burdens of the Egyptians; and I will deliver you ("V'hitzalti") from their bondage; and I will redeem you ("V'gaalti") with an outstretched arm and with great judgment.  And I will take you ("V'lakachti") to Me for a people and I will be to you a G-d; and you shall know that I am the L-rd your G-d, Who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." 


These four expressions ("I will bring you out... I will deliver you... I will redeem you... I will take you to Me") represent different stages in our redemption.  We commemorate these four expressions and stages of our freedom through the four cups of wine we drink at the Seder.


According to another opinion in the Talmud, the four cups of wine also remind us of another liberation many years before the Exodus.  Joseph, who spent many years in an Egyptian jail, was freed from jail as a result of his correct interpretation of the dream of Pharaoh's butler and subsequently Pharaoh’s dream.  In describing his dream and Joseph's interpretation of the dream, the word "kos" - "cup" is mentioned four times(Genesis40:11-13).   As a result of this episode, Joseph was given his freedom and eventually became ruler of Egypt.  Thus, thefour cups also represent Joseph's freedom.


Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, who lived during the Spanish inquisition, sees the four cups as a symbol for the four redemptions spread over the period of Jewish history. The first one was when G-d redeemed Abraham from his idol-worshipping family and chose him and his children as G-d's nation.  The second was the redemption from Egypt.  The third redemption is the very existence of the Jewish people and their survival through the many difficult years of exile amongst the many nations.  The fourth and final redemption will be with the coming of Moshiach. May it be, G-d willing, speedily in our days.