Rabbi Moshe Har-Noy
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
The Mishnah (BT Pesachim 117b) states:
“Between these cups – if one wants to drink, he may drink. Between the third and fourth [cups at the Seder] – he may not drink.”
R’ Ovadiah MiBartenura explains:
“Lest he become drunk and once again will be unable to complete the Hallel. And if you say that he is drunk already – after all, he drank as much as he wished during the meal – [the answer is that] wine which [is consumed] with the food is not intoxicating. But after the food, [the wine] is intoxicating.”
This halachah hints at an important underlying message.
The four cups of wine represent the four leshonot geulah (the four promises of redemption):
“Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, ‘I am Hashem, and I will take you out (vihotzeiti) from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will save you (vihitzalti) from their service; and I will redeem you (viga’alti) with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you (vilakachti) to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you; and you will know that I am Hashem your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of Egypt.’” (Shmot 6:6-7)
One may make a hefsek (an interruption or break) between the first and second cups and between the second and third cups. In other words, there are situations where although HaKadosh Baruch Hu relieves us of “the burdens of Egypt” (i.e. hard labor), the slavery itself continues in one form or another. Similarly, there are situations where HaKadosh Baruch Hu rescues us from enslavement, but we remain “in Egypt” – i.e. deep in the 49 sha’arei tumah (the 49 levels of impurity).
However, one may not make a hefsek between the third and fourth cups. HaKadosh Baruch Hu will never take us out of Egypt without His becoming our God or without our accepting His Torah as our guide. Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) is only a means to an end – rather than an end in and of itself. Yetziat Mitzrayim is simply the first stage towards achieving the second stage:
“When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain” (Shmot 3:12)
Sefirat HaOmer – which begins on Pesach and continues until Shavuot – links these two stages of the geulah. During this period, our task is to enhance this connection by strengthening our bond with our Creator.
In this way, may we soon be privileged to see the fulfillment of the fifth and final lashon geulah:
“I will bring you (viheiveiti) to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov; and I will give it to you as a heritage – I am Hashem.” (Shmot 6:8)