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four cups of wine seder

The four cups of wine are four pleas. We have to keep this in mind not only on the Seder night, but on all nights.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with israel

It is widely known that we drink four cups of wine at the Passover Seder. There are a number of explanations for this.

One of the more famous explanations is that the four cups of wine represent the four terms that God used when promising to take the Jews out of Egypt. They are “I will take you out…”, “I will save you…”, “I will redeem you…”, and “I will take you as a nation…”.

A lesser-known interpretation for why we drink four cups of wine relates to “the butler’s dream.” Joseph was in prison along with Pharaoh’s baker and wine butler. One night the butler had a disturbing dream for which he sought interpretation. When he related his dream to Joseph, he used the word “cup” four times.

So the question is asked: What does the butler’s dream have to do with Passover or the Passover Seder? What’s the connection to the butler’s four “cups” and our four cups of wine at the Seder?

Joseph interpreted dreams for both the butler and the baker. Joseph correctly interpreted the baker’s dream that it was a sign that he would be hung. So too, he correctly interpreted the butler’s dream that it was a sign that he would live and soon get his job back.

Whether or not dreams are a form of prophecy is a topic beyond the scope of this article. But what is for sure is that our dreams reflect what we have been thinking about during the day. As mentioned, when Joseph asked the butler to tell him his dream, the butler kept using the word “cup.” To be exact, he said, “Pharaoh’s cup” four times. It is explained that the butler’s repeated use of “Pharaoh’s cup” was a sign of his overwhelming desire to be reinstated by Pharaoh. When the baker told Joseph his dream, however, he did not mention Pharaoh much. It is explained that this shows that the baker did truly care to have his job back or to be further associated with Pharaoh.

With this introduction, we can now understand the connection between the butler’s dream, his “cups”, and our four cups of wine at the Passover Seder. The four cups of wine express our appreciation to God for all that He has done for us. By showing how much we appreciate the redemption from Egypt, we pray that He will take notice and redeem us again from the current exile with the coming of the Messiah.

The four cups, therefore, are four pleas, representing our longing for closeness to Him. Our dreams speak our desires. We have to keep this in the forefront of our minds not only on the Seder night, but on all nights. It should be our waking desire, which wouldl also result in sweet dreams that will hopefully come true soon!

Based on the “Sheva D’nechemta Haggadah” by Rabbi Jeremy Finn

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