At the seder: Four and Faith

Pesach by the numbers

Peach really is the most numerical of holidays. We point out three matzos, the ten makkos broken up into three groupings under the acronyms, and the three key elements of the seder night: Peach, Matzoh, and Maror. We also drink four cups of wine, dip twice and,sing about the significance of the numbers 1 -13. (see and . We also count up the makkos in multiples of to arrive at even greater numbers than ten. And even beyond the seder itself, we launch a count by both ones and sevens as we count the weeks to Shavuoth, starting from the second night of Pesach.

But I want to focus a bit on the number four.  There are  four cups of wine: each corresponding to one of the terms of redemption. On top of that, we pour a cup for Eliyahu to allude to a fifth term of redemption: vehe'vethi.  There are the famous four questions and the four son who each have to be answered differently .I would like to propose a possible parallel between the progression.

l. When Hashem took us out of Egypt, he met all our need in the desert. We didn't have to plow, sow, and tend to crops; we merely gather mann. We didn't have to launder or even replace our clothes that were kept fresh and fitting in the cloud. It was, in other words, a charmed existence. Certainly there was great virtue in it, a lesson mann ever after. to be remembered and preserved in the form of the jar that held the

But it wasn't what G-d wanted for us in the long term. What he wanted from us was to willingly enter into the stage of velakachti: becoming a mature people with a clearly set identity in our own land. Like overprotective parents who like to keep their kids under their wing even when they should be pushing them out of the nest, the Meraglim resisted this imperative. Like so many smothering parents, they may have had the very best intentions. Yet they were wrong. They closed off the children of Israel from going out into the question mark of a future that was not so insulated and miraculously provided for, deciding that they knew better and were keeping the children safe.

As we know, that turned into extra years in the desert and a decree that none of the men between 20 and 60 of that generation would merit to enter the land. But the women didn't fall for this, "Let's keep the children within this protected environment" nonsense. They are the ones who had maintained the vision of redemption even while enslaved (see They also were the ones who appreciated the value of the land, as evidenced by the daughters of Tzalfachad's petition to inherit their father's potion.

This same faith that sustained them through enslavement and that filled them with the hope needed to continue having children is what made them have hope in passing through the fourth stage of geula. Accordingly, I like to think of the four cups of wine as representing the Immahos just as the three matzos represent the Avos (as well as Kohen, Levi Yisrael). The women are the ones who held on to the vision of redemption that we sing about in "Vehee she'amda" In fact, we may venture to say, the hee here as the feminine form  of shecan stand for that strong female faith that stood fast. That's the same she or feminine you that has to open the way to the child to proceed through all the way to velakachti.

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