The Four Cups – FAQ

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One of the highlights of the seder is drinking the Four Cups of wine. The Four Cups symbolize the four expressions of redemption; Ve’hotseiti, Ve’hetsalti, Ve’gaalti, and Ve’lakahti. Each one of these phrases represents a different stage of the redemption. Ve’hotseiti – and I will take them out from under the servitude of Mitsrayim, the end of the slavery. Ve’hetsalti – and I will save them so that they are no longer under Egyptian rule. Ve’gaalti – and I will redeem them, referring to the Splitting of the Sea. Ve’lakahti – I will take them as a nation through the giving of the Torah. 

Which wine should I buy? 

The wine used for the seder should preferably be red, as red wine is considered superior to white. Additionally, red wine reminds us of the Jewish blood spilled by Pharaoh, the plague of blood cast upon the Egyptians, and the blood libels that followed Jews around the world over the centuries. 

When wine is “mevushal” – cooked or heated beyond a certain temperature, it reduces the quality of the wine. It is preferable to use non-mevushal wine for the Four Cups. Once a bottle of non-mevushal wine is opened, one should ensure a non-Jew does not touch it, as it can become problematic and forbidden to derive benefit from it. Generally, Kedem narrow 750 ml. bottles (without a cork) are mevushal and their wider 1.5-liter bottles are non-mevushal.

May I drink grape juice for the Four Cups? 

Grape juice may be used by one who cannot tolerate wine. However, there are numerous wines that meet all halachic requirements and are low in alcohol such as Moscato, Kedem Concord Kal (Sweet, 3.5 percent alcohol), Matuk Kal Soft (Semi-dry, 4.5 percent alcohol), and Rashi Light Red Concord (5.5 percent alcohol). 

May I dilute the wine? 

One may dilute the wine with grape juice, as long as the mixture retains an alcohol level of 3.5 percent, as this can still be considered wine. If necessary, wine may be diluted with a small portion of water as well, as long as it does not significantly detract from the taste. Before diluting, one must ensure that the wine was not previously diluted by the producer. Wine producers may legally add water without noting this on the label, therefore one should be careful before adding water. 

How much wine must I drink? 

The cup must hold at least three ounces – a reviit. Ideally, one should drink a majority of the cup, regardless of what size the cup is, and preferably the entire cup. The minimum one must drink is a majority of a reviit. This amount should be drunk in one gulp or two quick consecutive gulps.

When is the earliest time to recite Kiddush? 

Although during the year one may recite Kiddush immediately when coming home from the synagogue, on Pesah evening, since the cup for Kiddush is one of the Four Cups, one should wait until nightfall to recite Kiddush. At that time, one should start Kiddush right away to ensure that the children are awake during the reading of the Haggadah and eating of the matsah.

How should I lean? 

 One should lean onto something like a pillow or a chair, not just hang in the air. When leaning, the entire body should be tilted at a forty-five-degree angle. It is not enough to just lean one’s neck. The leaning is done to the left side even for one who is left-handed.

What if I forgot to lean? 

One should make sure to lean when drinking all Four Cups. If one forgot to lean when drinking one of the Four Cups, he should drink it again while leaning. A new berachah rishonah is not recited when re-drinking. According to some opinions if a woman forgot to lean she does not have to drink the cup again.

Do I make a berachah aharonah of al hagefen after the last cup?

If one drank a full reviit (3 oz.) for the third or fourth cup,  a berachah aharonah is recited, provided it was drunk in either one gulp or two quick gulps. If one did not drink a full reviit, he should not make a berachah aharonah. If possible, the best thing to do in such a case would be to listen to someone else’s berachah and have in mind to fulfill your obligation.