One of the central components of the Seder night is drinking the four cups of wine. Though the requirement to drink four cups is of rabbinic origin, drinking wine is one of the blatant symbols of freedom and independence, which is the theme of this night.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 472), based on the Gemara Pesachim (108b), states that one may not drink the four cups consecutively but must drink them in accordance to the order of the Seder. The proper order can found in the Mishnayot Pesachim. The first cup is used for Kidush while the second accompanies the story of our redemption from slavery in Egypt. Some authorities are of the opinion that to express the correlation between the second cup and the story the cup should be held throughout the entire story. The third cup serves as the cup for Birkat Ha’Mazon and the fourth accompanies the completion of Hallel after the meal. It should be noted that while the first two chapters of Hallel are said with the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim (exodus from Egypt), the remainder are said after Birkat Ha’Mazon. It should also be noted that the fact that Hallel is said with the fourth cup would indicate it is an integral part of the Mitzvot of this night and therefore it is incumbent on everyone to partake in saying the Hallel.

Though drinking four cups is a time bound mitzvah, and though women are exempt from positive mitzvot that are time bound, women are required to partake in the drinking of the four cups of wine as well as men. The explanation given for requiring women to partake in drinking wine on the Seder night is that they too were included in the miracle and must commemorate it as well. We find two views amongst the Rishonim as to how women relate to the miracle of the redemption from Egypt. The Tosaffot, stressing the words of the Gemara (Pesachim 108b) “Af hen hayu be’oto ha’ness”, they too were in that miracle, point out that “they too” equates women to men but not more. As with the men, the miracle was redemption by God from slavery to freedom, so too the women were taken from slavery to freedom.

Rashi and Rashbam see women’s role in the miracle as more central. Based on a Gemara in Sotah (11b) that states “It is in the merit of the righteous acts of women of that generation that our forefathers were redeemed” they suggest that it is women who facilitated the redemption through the merits of their righteous behavior.

The Chafetz Chayim in his Biur Halacha points out that since women are no different then men in their requirement to drink four cups, they must also maintain the correlation of the cups to the four parts of the Seder. Furthermore, according to certain opinions should the four cups not be drunk in proper correlation with the Seder, whether by men or women, the mitzvah has not been fulfilled and must be repeated.

The cup used for the Seder must contain at least a “Reviit”. According to Rabbi Chayim Naeh, a Reviit would be at least 86cc or 3oz, while the opinion of the Chazone Ish is that it must contain at least 150cc or 5oz of liquid.

Since the Gemara refers to the Mitzvah in terms of cups (of wine) certain Reshonim such as the Ramban and the Mordechai are of the opinion that one should drink the entire cup or at least most of the cup. Other Rishonim feel that the amount of Reviit, which constitutes a significant quantity in other Halachot of drinking, is sufficient for drinking at the Seder night as well. The significance of this dispute is in the case that a cup containing more than a Reviit is used. According to the Ramban the entire cup or most of it should be drunk, while, according to the others one could still suffice with a Reviit or most of it. Ideally one should attempt to follow the opinion of the Ramban but may depend on the majority opinion in which event a full Reviit should be drunk or at the very least most of the Reviit, namely at least 44cc or 1.6 oz per cup.

For those who find drinking that much wine difficult or feel it would hinder their participation in the Seder due to intoxication, light wine or even grape juice should be used, rather than drinking less then the proscribed amount.

When drinking the four cups, according to the Shulchan Aruch, a Beracha is recited for the first cup during the Kidush. This Beracha suffices for the second cup as well, but another Beracha must be said before drinking the third cup. The third cup requires an additional Beracha since it is said after Birkat Hamazon, which acts as the completion of all eating and drinking based on previous Berachot. The fourth cup is viewed as attached to the third and does not require another Beracha proceeding it, but is followed by a Beracha Achrona as it is the last cup of wine for the night.

When drinking the four cups, according to the Shulchan Aruch, a Beracha is recited for the first cup during the Kidush. This Beracha suffices for the second cup as well, but another Beracha must be said before drinking the third cup. The third cup requires an additional Beracha since it is said after Birkat Hamazon, which acts as the completion of all eating and drinking based on previous Berachot. The fourth cup is viewed as attached to the third and does not require another Beracha proceeding it, but is followed by a Beracha Achrona as it is the last cup of wine for the night.

Let us hope and pray that we may drink our cups of wine with the Korban Pesach in the near future.