Parashas Vaeira

In the opening section of this week’s parashah, Hashem tells Moshe (Shemos 6:6-7): “Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, ‘I am Hashem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you unto Me as a people, and I shall be a God to you.’” The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 6:4 states that the opening word therefore signifies that Hashem was swearing to bring the Jewish People their ultimate deliverance (based on Shmuel Aleph 3:14 – “therefore, I have sworn regarding the house of Eli”). The Midrash notes further that Hashem’s message to the Jewish People includes four expressions of deliverance – I shall take you out, I shall rescue you, I shall redeem you, and I shall take you – in parallel with which the Sages instituted the practice of drinking four cups of wine on the Seder night. The question presents itself: Why an oath followed by four separate expressions of deliverance?
The Maggid answers this question through an analogy to a doctor treating a patient. In some cases, the doctor can immediately administer a single treatment that will cure the patient. In other case, the doctor cannot provide an immediate cure, but instead must wait for certain favorable conditions. In the meantime, the doctor will admininster symptomatic treatment. He will put the patient on various medicines to relieve the patient’s various symptoms: a pain-killer, an appetite stimulant, a sleeping pill, and so on. But first he will reassure the patient that the final cure will be coming eventually. When the appropriate conditions develop, the doctor will administer the definitive treatment, and then the patient will be fully cured.
Thus it was with the Jewish People in Egypt. The Jewish People at that time was not in a suitable spiritual condition to undergo the final deliverance. Hashem dealt with them accordingly. He began by reassuring them with an oath that He would eventually bring them their final deliverance. He then provided them, as an interim measure, four separate “palliative” forms of deliverance to relieve their various forms of suffering. Thus, the four cups of wine at the Seder serve a dual role: to stir us to praise Hashem for the kindnesses of the past, and to stir us to pray to Hashem for the final deliverance. And, indeed, the concluding blessing of the “Maggid” section of the Haggadah includes both elements: a praise to Hashem for taking us out of Egypt and a plea to Hashem to bring us the final deliverance, accompanied by the complete rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash, where we will serve Hashem in the ideal way. The fusion of these two elements is also reflected in the verse the Midrash quotes in connection with the mitzvah of the four cups (Tehillim 116:13): “I shall raise the cup of salvations, and I shall call upon the Name of Hashem.” We raise the cup in praise for the multiple salvations of the past, and call out in prayer for the definitive final salvation, may it come speedily and in our own days.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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