Religious : : Religious Committee Report
Many reasons are given. Two of the more traditional answers are:
1. In the Torah’s book of Exodus, when God promised to deliver the Jews from Egyptian slavery, God used 4 terms to describe the redemption: “I shall take you out”; 2) “I shall rescue you”; 3) “I shall redeem you”; and 4) “I shall bring you”.
2. The four cups represent the Israelites being liberated from Pharaoh’s four evil decrees: 1) slavery; 2) the ordered murder of the male children by the midwives; 3) the drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptian thugs; and 4) the decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.
Another explanation is that the four cups can be connected with the four natural elements: earth, air, fire and water. This reminds us that true freedom happens when our lives are in harmony.
A contemporary, politically-correct reason is that we read much about our forefathers in the development of the Jewish people as a nation, but comparatively little about our matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Each of the four cups recognizes one of these important contributors to our heritage.
For those of you who are numerically inclined, here is another explanation from Rabbi Dr. Marcus Lehman [1831- 1890] who served as the rabbi of Mainz, Germany. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for cup is 86. Accord- ing to our tradition, the worst and most backbreaking period of the Egyptian slavery lasted for 86 years—the last 86 years the Israelites spent in Egypt. As stated in the book of Exodus, the enslavement was supposed to last 430 years. God, however, in His mercy, began counting the 430 years from the time when He informed Abraham about the up- coming slavery, leaving just 86 years of actual backbreaking work. Thus, slavery was shortened by a total of 344 years. Now, 344/86 = 4. For this reason, we drink four cups of wine, for the four times 86 years which we were spared from slavery.
Hopefully, you will have four glasses of wine (or grape juice) with us at the in-formation virtual Temple Judea Com- munity Passover Seder on April 9th. (Your family & friends are cordially invited.)
Sandy Shapiro and Arnold Miller, Co-Chairs