The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SEDER NIGHT: THE MITZVAH of "THE FOUR CUPS"
Every adult is obligated to drink four cups of wine(1) on each of the Seder
nights. While this is a Rabbinical mitzvah, it has the added force of being
based on references in the written Law(2). The Rabbis attached particular
significance to this mitzvah, insisting that everyone obtain wine for the
Seder, even those for whom purchasing wine is a financial strain(3). The
Talmud(4) recounts how certain sages suffered headaches for weeks after
Pesach, but would not forgo the cherished mitzvah of drinking the four
cups(5). In view of the paramount importance of this mitzvah, let us review
the pertinent laws so that we perform it properly.
Not only men, but women as well are commanded to drink the four cups, since
they, too, were redeemed on Pesach night. Moreover, Chazal tell us that our
People merited the Exodus because of "the righteous Jewish women in
Egypt"(6). Boys and girls above the age of 6 or 7 who have reached the age
where they can understand the significance of the Seder, should also be
given the four cups to drink(7).
The four cups must be drunk only after it is definitely night in halachic
terms. Kiddush, which is the first of the four cups, may not be recited
until at least 50 minutes past sunset(8).
QUESTION: What size cup should be used to properly fulfill the mitzvah of
drinking the four cups?
DISCUSSION: Two separate, but related, issues must be considered before
answering this question: 1) What must the capacity of the cup be; 2) how
much of that cup must be drunk?
The cup must be able to hold a revi'is. There are three opinions as to what
constitutes a revi'is in today's measurements, ranging from 5.3 fl. oz.(9)
to 3.3 fl. oz.(10) to 3. fl. oz.(11). Since the mitzvah of drinking the four
cups of wine is Rabbinical in nature, one may - if he wishes - rely on the
more lenient views(12).
How much of the revi'is must be drunk? There are several views among the
poskim concerning this question: Some hold that the entire cup, no matter
how large, should l'chatchilah be drunk(13). Others hold that most of the
cup [no matter how large] - a bit more than half - must be drunk(14). A
third view maintains that l'chatchilah an entire revi'is must be drunk,
while b'dieved one fulfills the mitzvah by drinking most - a little more
than half - of a revi'is. While the basic halachah is in accordance with the
last view(15), the poskim recommend that all the views be satisfied when
Those who have no difficulty drinking wine may use any size cup, even one
that holds 6 or 7 oz., and drink it in its entirety.
Those who find it difficult to drink larger amounts of wine should, before
Yom Tov, locate a cup which is exactly a revi'is(16) as per the measurements
mentioned above(17). Then they should drink the entire cup and fulfill the
Those who cannot do even that should find a cup which holds exactly a
revi'is and drink most of that cup. They have then fulfilled the mitzvah
But even those who drink only most of the revi'is should take care to drink
an entire revi'is for the last cup so that they may recite Al ha-gefen on
the minimum amount required for a berachah acharonah(19).
QUESTION: May one use other beverages - besides wine - to fulfill the
mitzvah of drinking the four cups?
DISCUSSION: The poskim agree that anyone who can, should use only wine(20)
for fulfilling this mitzvah. This is because the four cups on Seder night
are supposed to be drunk derech cheirus - in the manner of a man just freed
from long captivity - which means drinking an alcoholic beverage(21).
Indeed, some poskim go so far as to allow wine only, even if one dislikes
wine or if the wine will give the drinker a temporary headache, etc(22).
But many other poskim hold that if one dislikes wine, or if wine makes him
dizzy or ill etc., one is not required to drink it(23). Indeed, some poskim
are of the opinion that such people should not force themselves to drink
wine, since for them it is not derech cheirus to drink something that they
dislike or that makes them ill(24). This applies especially to women and
children under bar/bas mitzvah who are not accustomed to drink wine in such
In order of preference, this is what should be done:
Mix grape juice(25) together with the wine. As long as some taste of wine
remains in the mixture [depending on the type of wine used], it is
considered drinking derech cheirus(26).
Drink only grape juice.
Under extenuating circumstances one can fulfill his obligation by drinking
any chamar medinah(27), which is a type of beverage served to important
guests(28). Since there are various views as to what exactly constitutes
chamar medinah, a rav should be consulted.
QUESTION: Is it permitted to slowly sip the wine or must it all be drunk in
DISCUSSION: There are various methods for fulfilling this mitzvah:
The preferred manner is to drink a revi'is in one swallow(29).
L'chatchilah, one should drink most of the revi'is - a little more than
half - in one swallow. If one cannot, he should drink it in two swallows
with a minimal pause between them.
If it takes longer than two swallows to drink most of a revi'is(30), one
fulfills the mitzvah only b'dieved. If this happens with the second cup, he
should preferably drink the second cup again. If it happens with any of the
other cups, he should not drink again(31).
If it takes longer than 3-4 minutes, one does not fulfill the mitzvah even
b'dieved. He must repeat the drinking.
QUESTION: At many Sedorim the recital of the Hagadah takes a long time. Is
it permitted to drink during that time?
DISCUSSION: It is permitted to drink water or soda between the first and
second cups(32). A shehakol is recited over the water. If the water was on
the table during kiddush, or if one intended during kiddush to drink water
or soda during the Hagadah, no shehakol is recited(33).
Coffee, tea, milk, or fruit juices may also be drunk between the first and
second cups(34), but only if they will not require their own berachah. In
order for them to be covered by the hagafen recited over the first cup, they
would have to have been on the table during kiddush or one would have had to
intend to drink them while reciting kiddush. Since these beverages are
considered chamar medinah, reciting a separate berachah and drinking them
will appear as if one is adding an additional cup to the four prescribed
Wine and other intoxicating beverages should be completely avoided between
the drinking of the first two cups. It is permitted, however to drink wine
and all other beverages after the second cup is drunk and throughout
Shulchan Orech when the meal is served.
1 Or a halachically approved substitute, as will be discussed later.
2 See Tosfos, Pesachim 108b (s.v. she'af).
3 O.C. 472:13. See Beiur Halachah 652:1 (s.v. afilu).
4 Nedarim 49b; Yerushalmi Shekalim 3:2. But if drinking the four cups will
cause one to be confined to bed, he is exempt; Mishnah Berurah 472:35.
5 See Magid Mishneh (Hilchos Chanukah 4:12) who explains that the
significance of this mitzvah is that is serves as a form of pirsumei nisa,
similar to the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles.
6 Rashi and Rashbam, Pesachim 108b (s.v. she'af).
7 O.C. 472:15; Shulchan Aruch Harav 472:25. Some poksim write that even
children below the age of chinuch should be given the four cups.
8 O.C. 472:1 and Mishnah Berurah 5.
9 The measurement of the Chazon Ish.
10 The measurement of Harav M. Feinstein.
11 The measurement of Harav A.C. Na'eh.
12 Mishnah Berurah 271:68. When Pesach falls on Shabbos the more stringent
opinion should be followed for the first cup, since kiddush on Friday night
is a Biblical command.
13 Ramban as understood by the Bach and Shulchan Aruch Harav O.C. 472:19.
14 Ramban, quoted in Shulchan Aruch O.C. 472:9. According to this view,
anyone who drinks less than that is not yotzei even b'dieved.
15 See Aruch ha-Shulchan 472:13, however, who holds that the basic halachah
is in accordance with the second view.
16 Some leeway should be allowed for spillage.
17 Those who are particular to use a large size cup in order to satisfy the
opinion of the Chazon Ish but do not drink the entire cup, are in effect
substituting one chumrah for another.
18 Mishnah Berurah 472:30,33.
20 The wine of choice is one that is favored by the drinker. If he has no
preference, then any red wine (including Tokay wine) may be used; O.C.
472:11. One who mixes two wines in order to produce a red color should
preferably pour the white wine into the red and not vice-versa; based on
Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 318:65.
21 Some poskim hold that in addition to derech cheirus, the drinking must
also be derech simchah, and only wine meets that criterion; see Pri Megadim,
Mishbetzos 472; Chok Yaakov 472:25; Mikraei Kodesh 35.
23 See also Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:243 who writes that the Brisker Rav and
the Tchebiner Rav used grape juice for the four cups; Harav C. Kanievsky
(quoted in Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso 2:3, note 25) reports the same about the
Chazon Ish; Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Halailah Hazeh, pg. 9); Chazon Ovadia, pg.
24 Shearim Metzuyanim B'halachah 118:1 based on the wording of the Rambam
and Shulchan Aruch Harav 272: 17 that the drinking of the four cups must be
25 Preferable, one should not use reconstituted grape juice, since many
poskim hold that the berachah on reconstituted grape juice is shehakol;
Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchas Shelomo 4); Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Vezos
ha-Berachah, pg. 116).
26 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Halailah Hazeh, pg. 9).
27 Mishnah Berurah 472:37.
28 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:75.
29 See Rama O.C. 472:15 and Machatzis ha-Shekel 472:11. Mishnah Berurah does
not mention this preference.
30 About 1.5 fl. oz. according to the lenient view.
31 Mishnah Berurah 472 and 34 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 49.
32 Mishnah Berurah 473:16.
33 O.C. 174:2.
34 While this is permitted, it is not appropriate to take "coffee breaks"
while the Hagadah is being recited.
35 Shulchan Aruch Harav 473:13. See Mishnah Berurah 473:16.