• Gabbai

Pesach – Bottoms Up

The Halachah requires only that we consume the better portion of our wine glass during the Seder. We lean to the left when we drink each of the four cups, but there is no imperative to drain the cup. Assuming the cup contains the minimal amount required, a little over 3 ounces, we need to drink just over half of it, less than two ounces of wine. This is true for all four of the cups. Nevertheless, common practice is to drain the fourth cup, drinking all of it. The reason is obvious, and it is similar to the practice of drinking the entire cup of wine when reciting Havdalah. While the first three cups are going to be followed by more drinking, and therefore no after-blessing will be recited regardless of the quantity consumed, the fourth glass marks the end of drinking. If a proper quantity of wine (revi’it, or just over 3 ounces) was consumed, such an after-blessing is warranted. If one has consumed less than that, leaving wine in the glass, no blessing follows. It is therefore customary to drain the fourth glass, generating a requirement for an after-blessing, similar to Havdalah, after which no further drinking normally follows.

This is the standard reason given for this practice. There is no imperative to drain the fourth glass, it is only desirable in order to generate an after-blessing. Some commentaries, however, attribute more significance to draining the fourth glass. Rabbi Chaim Ingram, of Sydney, Australia, penned an article this year, suggesting a delightful idea to explain the significance of draining the fourth glass. We know that the sages instituted the four cups during the Seder to correspond to the four terms of redemption used by the Torah when Hashem promised to redeem Israel:

Vehotzeti (I will bring you out) – the first term – signifies the removal of the burden of slavery. This occurred once the plagues began. Most commentaries understand that the slavery was discontinued once the plagues started.

Vehitzalti (I will save you) – the second term – reflects the removal of any subordination to the Egyptians. This occurred before the final plague, when each family of Israel took a lamb and tied it to the bed-post in defiance of the Egyptian deity.