top of page
  • Writer's pictureNitzotzos

Parshas Vaeira - In Search of Eden

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

Ioלָכֵ֞ן אֱמֹ֥ר לִבְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֘ אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָה֒ וְהֽוֹצֵאתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֗ם מִתַּ֨חַת֙ סִבְלֹ֣ת מִצְרַ֔יִם וְהִצַּלְתִּ֥י אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵֽעֲבֹֽדָתָ֑ם וְגָֽאַלְתִּ֤י אֶתְכ בִּזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבִשְׁפָטִ֖ים גְּדֹלִֽים: וְלָֽקַחְתִּ֨י אֶתְכֶ֥ם לִי֙ לְעָ֔ם וְהָיִ֥יתִי לָכֶ֖ם לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים וִֽידַעְתֶּ֗ם כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹ֣הֵיכֶ֔ם הַמּוֹצִ֣יא אֶתְכֶ֔ם מִתַּ֖חַת סִבְל֥וֹת מִצְרָֽיִם

"Therefore, say to the children of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.(Shemos 6:6,7)

The Torah uses four different words to describe our redemption:

(1) "ve'hotzeisi eschem mi'tachas sivlos mitzrayim" - I will take you out from the Egyptian oppression

(2) "ve'hitzalti eschem me'avodasam" - I will save you from their servitude

(3) "ve'gealti eschem bizroah netuyah" - I will redeem you with an outstretched arm

(4) "ve'lakachti eschem li le'am" - I will take you to be My people.

Rashi, in his commentary to Pesachim (99b), tells us that the four cups of wine that we are commanded to drink on Pesach at the Seder correspond to the four leshonos of geulah.

In Pesachim 108a the Gemara says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that women are obligated in the mitzvah of drinking the four cups of wine because of the rule “Af hein ha’yu b’osah ha’nes – they too were involved in the miracle.” On this Gemara, Rashi explains that the four cups of wine represent the three times that the word “kos” (cup) appears in the pasukim that discuss the Sar Hamashkim’s dream, and one more for bentching – totaling four cups of wine.

In truth we find that Rashi is citing various opinions from a machlokes that exists in the Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:1). Rav Yochanan says the four cups corresponds to the four leshonos of geulah, and Rav Yehoshua ben Levi says it corresponds to the word kos mentioned in the pasukim regarding the dreams of the Sar Hamashkim. ("The cup of Pharaoh was in my hand," "and I squeezed the grapes into the cup of Pharaoh," "and I placed the cup on the palm of the hand of Pharaoh," "and place the cup of Pharaoh in his hand". Bereishis - 37:11,13)"

The Yerushalmi also cites two other opinions as to why we have four cups at the seder.

Rav Levi says the four cups correspond to the four regimes that reign over Klal Yisrael in Golus (Bavel, Madai, Yavan and Edom).

The Rabbanan say that the four cups correspond to the four cups of retribution which Hashem has in store for the goyim and the four cups of consolation which Hashem has in store for Yisrael.

As we consider all of this information we must ask ourselves, what is the common thread between all of these various opinions? Chazal were not simply making random connections between the four cups and other times we see the number four in Jewish literature. What is the deeper message being conveyed here?

This is especially puzzling in light of the suggestion of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi that the four cups correspond to the four times the Torah used the word Kos in the interaction between Yosef and Pharaoh's wine steward. It seems a tenuous connection at best to suggest that the connection is because they both refer to a cup of wine. What is the inner connection between Yosef and the four cups of wine?

Lastly, on a textual level it is interesting to note that the four languages used to describe our redemption are not all found in one passuk. The last lashon, vilakachti, and I will take, is separated from the first three. It seems as if this description of geulah is somehow different than the others. What is the difference between vilakachti and the other leshonos of geula?

Illuminating Our Homes

The importance of drinking the four cups of wine on the night of the Seder cannot be understated. The Mishna in Pesachim (99b) rules that even a poor person who is supported by the communal charity funds should be supplied with sufficient wine for the four cups on the Seder night.

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 472:13) paskens that a poor person who does not receive enough from the communal charity should sell his clothes or hire himself out in order to purchase four cups of wine.

Interestingly, the Mishna Berurah (472:41) pakens that if one must choose between having candles for Yom Tov or four cups of wine, the Yom Tov candles take precedence because of shalom bayis. Why is this so? If a person is obligated to sell their clothing to be able to afford the four cups of wine for the Seder we would think that they are clearly critical to the Seder itself. Why then do candles for Shalom Bayis take precedence?

In Search of Gan Eden

One of the highlights of the Pesach Seder is the children asking the four questions. The source for the four questions is a Mishna in Pesachim (10:4 - see also Pesachim 60b). If no children are present, even at a Seder attended only by two Talmidei Chachamim, one person must ask the other. One who is alone asks the questions to himself. (Pesachim 116a)

But why four questions? Why not five or six?

In truth, this is not the first time we see four questions together.

After Adam and Chava sinned they had a conversation with Hashem. It is not a coincidence that in that conversation Hashem asked Adam and Chava four questions.

Question 1 - “They heard the sound of Hashem G-d walking in the garden toward the direction of the sun; and the man and his wife hid from Hashem G-d among the trees of the garden. Hashem G-d called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’

Question 2 - He said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I am naked; so, I hid.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you are naked?

Question 3 - Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’

Question 4 - The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And Hashem G-d said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

In order to understand the connection between the four questions that Hashem asked Adam and Chava and the four questions of the Mah Nishtana, we must first delve into the nature of Gan Eden and the purpose of existence.

The Mitteler Rebbe (Rav Dov Ber - son of the Alter Rebbe, Rav Shhneur Zalman of Liadi) asks, if Gan Eden is a physical place why can't we find its precise location? (Maamorei Admur HoEmtzoee Vayikra vol. 2 p. 703) To the best of my ability I will try to explain the Mitteler Rebbe's approach.

We must first understand that there is a difference between Eden and Gan Eden. The Gemara in Berachos (34b) tells us that "no eye has ever seen" Eden and is reserved for those who "wait" for God. Eden represents the essence of all things. It is the deepest dimension one can reach. Adam and Chava did not live in Eden but rather in Gan Eden which was watered by a river that flowed from Eden.

Gan Eden exists somewhere between the physical world and the spiritual world of Eden. As such it is comprised of both the physical and the spiritual. Prior to their sin, the bodies of Adam and Chava were like Gan Eden. Not totally physical but not totally spiritual either. Why was Gan Eden created as a hybrid of spiritual and physical? The purpose of creation is to build a dwelling place for Hashem in this world (see Medrash Tanchuma, Nasso 7:1 ). Had Adam HaRishon abstained from sinning there would have been a complete merging of the physical and the spiritual, making it a comfortable place for God. Gan Eden was meant to be the home we shared with God, a place where finite man and infinite God experienced total oneness. In other words, the relationship we were meant to have with God can be likened to a marriage. Marriage is about each spouse creating space for their partner in their world. The husband must pull back his own ego to make the wife feel comfortable in his world and vice versa. By creating a space for God so to speak in our world (by abstaining from sin) we would have entered into a perfect state of oneness with God. Because Adam and Chava sinned a rift in the relationship was created. No longer was our world a place that was naturally hospitable for God.

(The Tikkunei HaZohar (Introduction, 10b-11a) explains that this is the reason we look at our fingernails during Havdala. "Adam was garbed in garments of nail, which were luminous like the clouds of glory. And when he was separated from them, “they knew that they were naked.” Naked in body, breath, soul and spirit. Naked, stripped from the “garments of light,” which are the “lights of the flame.” On Shabbat, these “garments of light” appear to us upon kindling the two wicks of the candles, and they pass from us when Shabbat ends. That is why they required saying the blessing of lights at Havdalah. On Shabbat and holidays, our souls are clothed in those “garments of light,” the prophet [Isaiah 24.15] said: “Therefore, honor God with light…”)

Once Adam and Chava ate from the Eitz HaDaas, they became more physical (as we are today) and therefore could no longer remain in the spiritual state of Gan Eden and were expelled to this world. They would live in a world that their own sin created. A world that sees itself as independent from its own essence.

So to answer our original question, Gan Eden can be compared to love. When sees someone they love their are certain chemical secretions that occur in the brain but one cannot say that love is dopamine. In the psychical world we can only measure the dopamine but in Gan Eden we experience the essence of the love itself. Gan Eden exists in our world but it cannot be measured just as love cannot be measured.

Our world is not totally divorced from Gan Eden. The first use of the number four in the Torah is found in connection with the water that flowed out of Gan Eden. "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads." (Bereishis 2:10)

The Gemara in Taanis (10a) teaches, Rav Yehoshua ben Levi said: The entire world drinks from the runoff of the Garden of Eden, as it is stated: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden…”

The Gemara in Berachos (34b) teaches that we make a bracha when we see these rivers, but only the sections of the rivers that were not altered by man. In other words, these rivers are meant to lead us back to Gan Eden. Once we alter the course of the river they no longer lead us back to Gan Eden. A world that is totally physical, divorced from its essence, is fundamentally lacking. The Medrash relates that after being banished from Gan Eden, Adam sat in a river that flowed from the garden (the first person to go to the Mikvah). This was an integral part of his teshuvah process. Sin is a byproduct of a system that sees the physical as divorced from the spiritual. By immersing ourselves in the rivers that flow from Gan Eden into our world, we are reconnecting to the original essence of Eden itself and in this fashion we return to God. In other words, our mission in life is to return to Eden. In so doing we bring balance to our world, making the essence as real as the physical world that contains it.

With this in mind we can readily understand the connection between the four questions that Hashem asks Adam and Chava and the four questions of the Mah Nishtana. Hashem perceived that after the sin something had fundamentally changed in Gan Eden. Man in his current state could no longer participate in a union with God in Gan Eden. The four questions correspond to the four rivers that flow from Gan Eden into our world. On Pesach we are obligated to ask the four questions that begin with the words Mah Nishtana, what changed. These four questions echo the original four questions that God asked to Adam and Chava. Just as God asked what changed, so too do the children at the Pesach Seder. In asking these questions our children help bring about the redemption as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (11a) states, we were redeemed in Nissan and in Nissan we are destined to be redeemed.

The Redemption of Four

As we said, the four rivers of Gan Eden flow into our world. Our job is to travel those rivers back to Gan Eden and restore the balance between physical and spiritual. In so doing we build a dwelling place for God in our world.

This explains why we consistently find the number four in creation.

There are four stages of creation as the passuk in Yeshayahu (43:7)says:

כֹּל הַנִּקְרָ֣א בִשְׁמִ֔י וְלִכְבוֹדִ֖י בְּרָאתִ֑יו יְצַרְתִּ֖יו אַף־עֲשִׂיתִֽיו:

"Everyone that is called by My name, and whom I created for My glory, I formed him, yea I

made him." (1. for My glory 2. created 3. formed 4. made)

The natural world is made up of four categories. Domem (inanimate), Tzomeach (vegetative), Chai (animal) and Medaber (human). The world itself is made up of four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

In Kabbalah there are four worlds that preceded our world: atzilus, beriah, yetzirah and asiyah.

There are four exiles that Klal Yisrael must endure in order to find our way back to Gan Eden: Bavel, Madai, Yavan and Edom.

There are four stages of Redemption in the times of Mashiach as the Navi Yechezkel says (34:13,14) "I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel."

Of course we know that when Hashem created the world he used the Torah as a blueprint for creation. It follows then that we would find the number four in the Torah as well.

The Torah itself has four components to the text: trup (cantillation), nekudot (vowels), osiyos (letters) and tagin (crowns). The Torah can be understood on four levels: pshat (literal), remez (hints), drush (allegory) and sod (secrets).

The Gemara in Berachos (8a) says that in our world Hashem can only be found in the four amos of halacha. By living a halachik life we align ourselves with the spiritual essence that inheres in our physical world.

The story of Klal Yisrael exiled in Mitzrayim (and their ultimate redemption) parallels the story of Adam, Chava and the Nachash. The Zohar Chadash (138) teaches that Pharaoh took on the form of the Nachash Hakadmoni. With this in mind we can easily understand why the number four is found throughout Pesach.

At the Seder, we drink four cups of wine, we ask four questions, and we read about four sons. There are four mitzvos that we perform on Pesach: Matza, Marror, Maggid and Daled Kosos. We start off the Seder with three Matzos but we break the middle Matzah (Yachatz) and then we have four.

Pesach is preceded by four Shabbatot: Shekalim Zachor, Parah and HaChodesh. The Yom Tov itself has four names: Chag HaPesach, Chag HaMatzot, Chag Ha’aviv and Zman Cheiruseinu.

Pharaoh enacted four decrees against the Jews. The first is “Va’yemariru es chayeihem- and they made their lives bitter.” The second: “im bein hu vahamisen oso – if it is a boy you should kill him.” The third: “kol ha’bein ha’yilod ha’yeorah tashlichuhu – every boy that is born must be thrown into the river.” And the fourth: "lo tosifun lases teven la'am..." the decree regarding making bricks without straw.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the 4 cups represent the four stages of history: Olam HaZeh, Yimos HaMoshiach, Techiyas HaMeisim, and Olam Haba. Kiddush is recited on the first cup because it represents Olam HaZeh, wherein in one must sanctify himself. The second cup represents Yimos HaMoshiach so therefore we recall the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim. The third cup is drunk immediately after the meal, corresponding to Techiyas HaMeisim and the Seudas Leviyasan. The last couple refers to Olam Haba when we recite Hallel HaGadol.

The Arizal explains (Sha’ar HaPesukim - Ki Seitzei) that Mitzrayim in not included in the four exiles (Bavel, Madai, Yavan and Edom) because Mitzrayim encompassed all the exiles that would follow. Each exile corresponds to one of the four letters of the name of Hashem and Mitzrayim corresponds to the kutzo shel Yud.

וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה אֵ֣ת יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵית֖וֹ בָּֽאוּ

"And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; with Jacob, each man and his household came" (Shemos 1:1)

The word בָּאִ֖ים, came, is an acronym for the four exiles that we would endure (Bavel, Edom, Yavan and Madai). This shows that Mitzrayim was a golus that encompassed all the exiles that would follow.

(fill in title) Divorced from Mitzrayim - Married to God

We mentioned above that the purpose of this world is for us to build a home for God. In this way we enter into a marital relationship with Hashem. When Adam and Chava sinned, choosing the physical over the spiritual, they entered into a union with the physical world. In order for us to build a relationship with Hashem we first require a "divorce" from our previous relationship. Only aftrewards can we enter into a martial union with God.

The Torah describes divorce as follows:

וּשְׂנֵאָהּ֘ הָאִ֣ישׁ הָֽאַחֲרוֹן֒ וְכָ֨תַב לָ֜הּ סֵ֤פֶר כְּרִיתֻת֙ וְנָתַ֣ן בְּיָדָ֔הּ וְשִׁלְּחָ֖הּ מִבֵּית֑וֹ א֣וֹ כִ֤י יָמוּת֙ הָאִ֣ישׁ הָאַֽחֲר֔וֹן אֲשֶׁר־לְקָחָ֥הּ ל֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה

"if the latter husband hates her and writes her a bill of divorce, and places it into her hand and sends her away from his house, or if the latter husband who took her as a wife, dies" (Devarim 24:3)

The use of the word shalach is consistently used throughout the story of our leaving Mitzrayim.

וָֽאֹמַ֣ר אֵלֶ֗יךָ שַׁלַּ֤ח אֶת־בְּנִי֙ וְיַ֣עַבְדֵ֔נִי וַתְּמָאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלְּח֑וֹ הִנֵּה֙ אָֽנֹכִ֣י הֹרֵ֔ג אֶת־בִּנְךָ֖ בְּכֹרֶֽךָ

So I say to you, 'Send out My son so that he will worship Me, but if you refuse to send him out, behold, I am going to slay your firstborn son.' " (Shemos 4:23)

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֔ה מִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶשְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹל֔וֹ לְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֤א יָדַ֨עְתִּי֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְגַ֥ם אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹ֥א אֲשַׁלֵּֽחַ

And Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know the Lord, neither will I let Israel out." (Shemos 5:2)

וְאִם־מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֑חַ הִנֵּ֣ה אָֽנֹכִ֗י נֹגֵ֛ף אֶת־כָּל־גְּבֽוּלְךָ֖ בַּֽצְפַרְדְּעִֽים

"But if you refuse to let [them] go, behold, I will smite all your borders with frogs." (Shemos 7:27)

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר משֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָֽנֹכִ֜י יוֹצֵ֤א מֵֽעִמָּךְ֙ וְהַעְתַּרְתִּ֣י אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְסָ֣ר הֶֽעָרֹ֗ב מִפַּרְעֹ֛ה מֵֽעֲבָדָ֥יו וּמֵֽעַמּ֖וֹ מָחָ֑ר רַ֗ק אַל־יֹסֵ֤ף פַּרְעֹה֙ הָתֵ֔ל לְבִלְתִּי֙ שַׁלַּ֣ח אֶת־הָעָ֔ם לִזְבֹּ֖חַ לַֽיהֹוָֽה

"Moses said, "Behold, I am going away from you, and I will entreat the Lord, and the mixture of noxious creatures will depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow. Only let Pharaoh not tease anymore, by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord." (Shemos 8:25)

כִּ֛י אִם־מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֑חַ וְעֽוֹדְךָ֖ מַֽחֲזִ֥יק בָּֽם

"For if you refuse to let them go, and you still hold on to them," (Shemos 9:2)

כִּ֛י אִם־מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֣חַ אֶת־עַמִּ֑י הִֽנְנִ֨י מֵבִ֥יא מָחָ֛ר אַרְבֶּ֖ה בִּגְבֻלֶֽךָ

"For if you refuse to let [them] go, behold, tomorrow I am going to bring locusts into your borders." (Shemos 10:4)

וַיְהִ֗י בְּשַׁלַּ֣ח פַּרְעֹה֘ אֶת־הָעָם֒ וְלֹֽא־נָחָ֣ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים דֶּ֚רֶךְ אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים כִּ֥י קָר֖וֹב ה֑וּא כִּ֣י | אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים פֶּן־יִנָּחֵ֥ם הָעָ֛ם בִּרְאֹתָ֥ם מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְשָׁ֥בוּ מִצְרָֽיְמָה

"It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt" (Shemos 13:17)

The Talmudic term for divorce is Geirushin. Not surprisingly we also find this word throughout the story of leaving Mitzrayim.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה עַתָּ֣ה תִרְאֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה לְפַרְעֹ֑ה כִּ֣י בְיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ יְשַׁלְּחֵ֔ם וּבְיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֔ה יְגָֽרְשֵׁ֖ם מֵֽאַרְצֽוֹ

"And the Lord said to Moses, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them out, and with a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land." (Shemos 6:1)

לֹ֣א כֵ֗ן לְכ֙וּ נָ֤א הַגְּבָרִים֙ וְעִבְד֣וּ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה כִּ֥י אֹתָ֖הּ אַתֶּ֣ם מְבַקְשִׁ֑ים וַיְגָ֣רֶשׁ אֹתָ֔ם מֵאֵ֖ת פְּנֵ֥י פַרְעֹֽה

"Not so; let the men go now and worship the Lord, for that is what you request." And he chased them out from before Pharaoh." (Shemos 10:11)

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־משֶׁ֗ה ע֣וֹד נֶ֤גַע אֶחָד֙ אָבִ֤יא עַל־פַּרְעֹה֙ וְעַל־מִצְרַ֔יִם אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֕ן יְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִזֶּ֑ה כְּשַׁ֨לְּח֔וֹ כָּלָ֕ה גָּרֵ֛שׁ יְגָרֵ֥שׁ אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִזֶּֽה:

"The Lord said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here. When he lets you out, he will completely drive you out of here." (Shemos 11:1)

וַיֹּאפ֨וּ אֶת־הַבָּצֵ֜ק אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצִ֧יאוּ מִמִּצְרַ֛יִם עֻגֹ֥ת מַצּ֖וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֣א חָמֵ֑ץ כִּֽי־גֹרְשׁ֣וּ מִמִּצְרַ֗יִם וְלֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לְהִתְמַהְמֵ֔הַּ וְגַם־צֵדָ֖ה לֹא־עָשׂ֥וּ לָהֶֽם

"They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves." (Shemos 12:39)

Even the terminology Yetzias Mitzrayim has its roots in divorce as the passuk says:

וְיָֽצְאָ֖ה מִבֵּית֑וֹ וְהָֽלְכָ֖ה וְהָֽיְתָ֥ה לְאִֽישׁ־אַחֵֽר:

"and she leaves his house and goes and marries another man" (Devarim 24:2)

After divorcing ourselves from Mitzrayim we were ready to enter into a state of marriage with Hashem at Har Sinai.

Chazal consistently compare Matan Torah to a wedding.

When Eliezer betrothed Rivka for Yitzchak the passuk says:

וַיְהִ֗י כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר כִּלּ֤וּ הַגְּמַלִּים֙ לִשְׁתּ֔וֹת וַיִּקַּ֤ח הָאִישׁ֙ נֶ֣זֶם זָהָ֔ב בֶּ֖קַע מִשְׁקָל֑וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֤י צְמִידִים֙ עַל־יָדֶ֔יהָ עֲשָׂרָ֥ה זָהָ֖ב מִשְׁקָלָֽם

"Now it came about, when the camels had finished drinking, [that] the man took a golden nose ring, weighing half [a shekel], and two bracelets for her hands, weighing ten gold [shekels]." (Bereishis 24:22)

Rashi explains that the two bracelets correspond to the two luchos and their weight of ten geras corresponds to the aseres hadibros.

The Navi Hoshea likens Mattan Torah to a betrothal as the passuk in Hoshea (2:21) states:

וְאֵֽרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵֽרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּבְרַֽחֲמִֽים

"And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy."

The Medrash in Vayikrah Rabah (Acharei Mos 20) says:

ביום חתונתו וביום שמחת לבו, ביום חתונתו זה הר סיני, וביום שמחת לבו זה אהל מועד

“On the day of his marriage and on the day of the joy of his heart;” on the day of his marriage, this is Har Sinai, on the day of the joy of his heart, this is the Ohel Moed.

The Mechilta D’Rabi Yishmael (Yitro Parsha Gimmel) says:

אמר ר' יוסי, יהודה היה דורש, (דברים לג ב) ויאמר ה' מסיני בא, אל תקרא כן, אלא ה' לסיני בא, ליתן תורה לישראל או אינו אומר כן, אלא ה' מסיני בא, לקבל את ישראל, כחתן זה שהוא יוצא לקראת כלה. ויתיצבו, נצפפו. [מלמד שהיו ישראל מתיראין מפני הזיקין מפני הזועות מפני הרעמים מפני הברקים הבאים. - בתחתית ההר]. מלמד שנתלש ההר ממקומו, וקרבו ועמדו תחת ההר, שנאמר דברים ד יא) ותקרבון ותעמדון תחת ההר

Rabbi Yosi said, Yehuda would expound, (Devarim 32:2) ‘And he said, Hashem came from Sinai’ don’t read it as this, rather Hashem came to Sinai to give the Torah to the Jewish people or perhaps otherwise, rather He came from Sinai to accept the Jewish people, as this groom who goes out to greet his bride. And they stood, they pressed together […] we learn that the mountain was uprooted from its place and they encroached and stood beneath the mountain as it says (Devarim 4:11) ‘and you came close and you stood under the mountain’.

The modern day wedding has its roots in Har Sinai. The Chuppah canopy the couple stands under corresponds to Har Sinai which was held over the heads of Klal Yisrael. The candles that the parents hold while walking down the aisle remind us of the lightning that took place at the time of the giving of the Torah. The breaking of the glass corresponds to the breaking of the luchos.

No wonder that on Pesach we read Shir Hashirim which compares our relationship with Hashem to a marriage.

Additionally, the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuous (when we received the Torah) can be compared to the seven clean days a woman must wait before becoming permissible to her husband.

The first three leshonos of geula ("I will bring you out," "I will save you," "I will deliver you") relate to leaving Mitzrayim. They represent the stage of divorce from our marriage to this world.

The last lashon of geula, vilakachti ("I will take you, for me, as a Nation, and I will be, for you, the L-rd.") refers to our union with Hashem that takes place at Har Sinai. (See Sforno and Ibn Ezra ad loc) We are no longer just leaving Mitzrayim, we are entering into a state of oneness with Hashem. Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel translate the word “velokachti” as “ve’eskorev” from the language of “kiruv” as in “I will draw near.” God is not simply taking us out but is actually drawing us near to Him.

Why specifically does the Torah use the word vilakachti?

כִּֽי־יִקַּ֥ח אִ֛ישׁ אִשָּׁ֖ה וּבְעָלָ֑הּ וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־לֹ֧א תִמְצָא־חֵ֣ן בְּעֵינָ֗יו כִּי־מָ֤צָא בָהּ֙ עֶרְוַ֣ת דָּבָ֔ר וְכָ֨תַב לָ֜הּ סֵ֤פֶר כְּרִיתֻת֙ וְנָתַ֣ן בְּיָדָ֔הּ וְשִׁלְּחָ֖הּ מִבֵּיתֽוֹ

"When a man takes a wife and is intimate with her, and it happens that she does not find favor in his eyes because he discovers in her an unseemly [moral] matter, and he writes for her a bill of divorce and places it into her hand, and sends her away from his house,"

The Gemara in Kiddushin (2b) explains that the man "takes" the woman because Chava was originally taken from Adam. This can be compared to someone who lost an object. The owner who loses the object must search for the aveidah, the lost object does not search for its owner.

The Gemara continues and says, "We learn from this that when a person comes to complete a part which is missing from them, we use the term "taking", as our Sages of Blessed memory say, "If a man proposes with the words, ‘You are the one I have taken,’ [instead of the ordained form of, "You are betrothed to me"], this is also considered to be a binding marriage."

Just as Chava was "taken" from Adam so too the soul is a part of God (Iyov 31:2). And just as the soul is a part of God so too is Klal Yisrael described as a part of God as the passuk in Devarim (32:9) states:

כִּ֛י חֵ֥לֶק יְהֹוָ֖ה עַמּ֑וֹ יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב חֶ֥בֶל נַֽחֲלָתֽוֹ

"Because the Lord's portion is His people Jacob, the lot of His inheritance"

Adam and Chava in Gan Eden were in a state of unity with God. After their sin, we became God's lost object so to speak. When God "took" us out of Mitzrayim we were once again reunited with God as Adam and Chava were in Gan Eden.

This explains the psak of the Shulchan Aruch (OC 473:3 and OC 479) who says that while one may add cups in between the first three kosos at the seder, one may not drink between the third and fourth kos. The first three kosos represent the divorce from Mitzrayim but they all lead to the fourth kos which represents our ultimate marriage to Hashem. As such, any additional drinking between the third and the fourth kos would interrupt the flow of redemption and is therefore impermissible.

It is now clear as to why the first three leshonos of geula are textually separated from the fourth lashon of geula. While there is one flow of redemption, they represent two fundamentally different ideas. The first three languages of geula divorced us from Mitzrayim whereas the fourth lashon brought us into a marriage with God.

A History of Redemption

We can now understand the common theme between the four answers (of course there are four answers) brought in the Yerushalmi as to why we drink four kosos at the Seder as well as how Yosef's conversation with Pharoah's wine steward is relevant to the discussion.

You will recall that the four answers were that the four cups correspond to the four leshonos of geula, the four times it mentions kos in the conversation with Yosef and Pharoah's wine steward, the four exiles we would endure (Bavel, Paras, Yavan and Madai) and Rav Yochanan says the four cups corresponds to the four leshonos of geulah, and the four cups of retribution which Hashem has in store for the goyim and the four cups of consolation which Hashem has in store for Yisrael.

The common theme is the history of redemption and our return to Gan Eden.

History is story of our unfolding redemption. Expelled from Gan Eden, the four rivers guide us back to a state of harmony with God. To a place where matter and spirit are perfectly balanced. We will endure four exiles, experience four levels and redemption and drink the four cups of consolation as we see how Hashem punishes our enemies.

It is important for us to remember that every detail of history, large or small, is an integral part of the process of redemption. Had the Shevatim not sold Yosef down to Mitzrayim, Yosef never would have ended up in the house of Potiphar. Had he never been in the house of Potiphar, he never would have ended up languishing in an Egyptian jail. Had he never been in an Egyptian jail, he never would have met Pharaoh's wine steward and interpreted his dream that included four kosos. And had he never interpreted that dream would Yosef have become viceroy of Egypt? Would Klal Yisrael have come down to Mitzrayim? Would we have experienced redemption? Mattan Torah?

According to Rav Yehoshua ben Levi we drink four kosos to remind us that even the four kosos mentioned in the Sar HaMashkim's dream were part of our journey back towards Gan Eden. What appeared to be Yosef's lowest moments were merely a prelude to his ascension to power. It is all part of Hashem's plan.

(This is in line with Rav Yehoshua ben Levi's general approach for it is Rav Yehoshua ben Levi who says that "The whole episode of the Golden Calf was only to strengthen the hands of those who would repent." - Avodah Zara 4b. Where others see failing, Rav Yehoshua ben Levi sees everything as part of God's plan of redemption.)

Redemption Begins with Shalom

The inner meaning of the four kosos, the four leshonos of geula, is to return us to the four rivers of Gan Eden and rebuild our relationship with Hashem. A Seder without daled kosos is significantly lacking. We sell the clothes off of our back to experience the redemption that comes with drinking the four cups of wine at the Seder. But when faced with the choice between daled kosos and neiros for Yom Tov the choice is obvious. If our goal is to build a relationship with Hashem, our homes must be places of shalom. Marriage in this world is a microcosm of our ultimate union with God. If our homes are not with filled with light and peace, can they truly be a place where God feels welcome?

The Gemara in Yoma (9b) tells us that the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred. When there is no shalom between husband and wife, between brothers and sisters, Hashem cannot feel comfortable in such a home.

The story of Mitzrayim began with family members who turned on each other. Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned that because Klal Yisrael turned their backs on each other and became informers they would not merit redemption (Rashi, Shemos 2:14). Without neiros of Yom Tov there will be no shalom bayis. Without shalom there can be no redemption as the Mishna in Uktzin (3:12) states: "The Holy One, blessed is He, could find no container that would hold Israel's blessings as well as peace."

If we want to build a dwelling place for God in this world, restoring humanity to the state of Gan Eden, we must first look at our Mikdash Me'at, our homes (Megillah 29a). Rebuilding a Godly world begins in our own homes. May we all be zocheh to true shalom bayis.

bottom of page