Vayeishev – Four Cup of Wine at the Seder: Appreciating the Process of Salvation

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ישועת ד’ כהרף עין is a saying posted on the wall of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim’s main office in Queens, NY. It means “Salvation of Hashem is like the blink of an eye.” This does not mean we can expect or, G-D forbid, demand that Hashem rescue us from our calamities instantaneously, like in the blink of the eye; rather, it can happen and we must believe it is possible. When it does happen there is much to be thankful for at its realization. However, as we will see from a medrish in this week’s Torah portion of Vayeishev, there is more of an appreciation of Hashem’s salvation when it happens through an extended process.

The Torah portion relates that the chief butler of Pharaoh was thrown in jail over a fly found in Pharaoh’s goblet. The chief butler had a dream in jail which Yosef explained to him. The Torah describes the dream, saying: “So the chief cupbearer related his dream to Joseph, and he said to him, ‘In my dream, behold, a vine is before me. And on the vine are three tendrils and it seemed to be blossoming, and its buds came out; [then] its clusters ripened into grapes. And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm.’ And Joseph said to him, “This is its meaning: the three tendrils are three days. In another three days, Pharaoh will number you [with the other officers], and he will restore you to your position, and you will place Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, according to [your] previous custom, when you were his cupbearer” (Breishis 40:9-13).

However the Medrish Rabba (Vayeishev 88:5) relates that there was actually a deeper meaning behind the dream. “’So the chief cupbearer related his dream to Joseph, and he said to him, ‘In my dream, behold, a vine is before me.’ This refers to the Jewish people as it says, ‘You uprooted a vine from Egypt’ (Tehillim 80:9). The vine had 3 tendrils [representing] Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam. ‘And it seemed to be blossoming’ [refers to] the blossoming of the Jewish redemption. ‘And its buds came out’ [refers] to the budding of the Jewish redemption. ‘Its clusters ripened into grapes’ represents that a vine which blossoms immediately buds and grapes that are budding immediately ripen. ‘And the cup of Pharaoh was in my hand.’ From where did the Rabbis enact four cups on the night of the seder? Rav Huna said in the name of Binayah in accordance with the four types of redemptions that were mentioned by Egypt, ‘And I took you out,’ ‘And I saved you,’ ‘And I redeemed you,’ and I took you.’ Rebbe Shmuel bar Nachman said, in accordance to the four cups mentioned here… Rebbe Levi said in accordance with the four kingdoms. Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi said in accordance with the four cups of poison that Hashem will serve the non-Jews… And in accordance with those Hashem will give the Jews four cups of salvation in the future to come as it says, ‘The Lord is my allotted portion and my cup’ (Tehillim 16:5), I shall lift up a cup of salvations, and I shall call out in the name of the Lord, (Tehillim 116:13)…”

The Yefe Toar, bothered by the fact that it seems clear from the pesukim that Yosef interpreted the dreams differently, points out “the truth is that it was known that Hashem did not want to show [the butler and baker] what would become of them after 3 days. Only because what transpired as a result was [Yosef] was released from prison which eventually led to the redemption of the Jewish people, therefore Hashem orchestrated all these causes, and therefore it makes sense to attribute everything to the Jews who were the ultimate purpose of these dreams… ‘The vine that budded immediately ripened,’ this is coming to hint to 3 types of redemptions: buds, clusters, and grapes. The buds hinted to the beginning of the redemption when Moshe revealed himself to them as the progenitor of their redemption. The clusters refer to going out of Egypt, for then they started to see the fruits of redemption. The Grapes refers to the splitting of the sea, which completed their redemption. ‘From where did the Rabbi enact four cups?’ The Medrish answered that we learn from here that on Pesach we drink the cups because of freedom as it says, ‘I shall lift up a cup of salvations’… this is why we relied on this Torah portion for the amount of cups, for it hints to the redemption and Yosef went free because of this.” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)
Hashem could have redeemed us in the blink of an eye, as soon as Moshe came back to Egypt, but there was a whole process to our freedom. Why was the redemption drawn out at the cost of the extra pain and suffering, until they were completely free?
Rav Yisrael Salanter in his 7th letter of Ohr Yisrael begins: “Everything in the world is brought into existence through the process of cause and effect. The harvest of produce is the result of many preceding causes, such as planting seeds and plowing. The acquisition of money results from causes such as commercial transaction and leasing. Each cause is the effect of a preceding one. For example, seeding a field is the initial cause of grain sprouting. The seeding itself is the result of the person who plants the seeds, and the planting of the seeds is the result of his desire either to utilize the grain or to earn money through his labor. In the final analysis, there is no effect without a preceding cause that generates it. Likewise, there is no cause that is not generated by a preceding one. Ultimately, this chain of cause and effect traces back to the first, essential Cause – The Almighty.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
We see from this Medrish that the Sages, when enacting the four cups of wine in appreciation of Hashem saving us from the clutches of Pharaoh and Egyptian bondage, recognized the cause and effect that ultimately led back to Hashem. Indeed, going all the way back to when Yosef interpreted the dreams for the butler and baker and how everything ultimately connected, piece by piece, until the final redemption at the sea.

This very enactment proves that one will appreciate seeing a process of salvation at work and in this way will have more of an appreciation of the way Hashem runs this world then if he would be saved in the blink of an eye, though more flashy, and possibly less strenuous, but lacking in the clear appreciation that one could potentially have by looking back and seeing a whole process unfolding.