Preparations for the Seder
1. One should do one's best to obtain choice wine for the mitzvah of
drinking four cups of wine [during the Passover seder] (1). If red wine is
available that is of the same quality and level of kashrut (2), as the
available white wine, then the red wine is preferred for the mitzvah; this
is because the verse states: "Look not after wine, when it is red"
(Proverbs 23:31), which implies that red wine is considered more
significant (3). In addition, [red wine] reminds us of the blood of the
Jewish children Pharaoh slaughtered (4).
In countries where the ignorant population foolishly invent slanderous
accusations, the Jews refrain from using red wine for the Passover seder.
(1) It is a mitzvah on the night of Passover to act and feel as if you,
yourself, were just freed from slavery in Egypt. The Sages established the
mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine during the seder, as an outward
expression of this newfound freedom (Rambam, 'Yad', Chometz U'Matzah 7:7).
Even if drinking four cups of wine will cause someone slight discomfort,
such as a mild headache, one is still obligated to do so. One may dilute
the wine with grape juice or water (preferably grape juice), but one should
try to do it in a way that the alcoholic taste of the wine remains. Also,
when diluting with water, one must be careful to use the ratio required to
retain the blessing of "Borei Pri HaGofen" (more than one part wine to six
parts water; the fact that some modern wines are already diluted must be
taken into account). One is not obligated to do anything that will cause
him to become bedridden. Therefore, if one is unable to drink any wine (or
can only drink a small amount), one may fulfill the mitzvah of the four
cups using just grape juice. If one is allergic to grape juice, one may
fulfill the obligation by drinking four cups of "Chamar Medina" ("beverage
of the country"), which is generally defined as a drink one would serve to
a guest even when he is not thirsty, such as alcoholic beverages (make sure
they are not chometz), tea, and coffee ("Halachos of Pesach" by Rabbi
Shimon Eider, Vol II, pg 220-225; for further details, ask your local
(2) That is, the kashrut supervision of the wine is just as reliable.
(3) Tokay wine is considered red for this mitzvah ( "Halachos of Pesach" by
Rabbi Shimon Eider, Vol II, pg 220-225).
(4) According the Midrash, Pharaoh developed "Tzora'at" ( a specific skin
disease mentioned in the Torah), and would slaughter Jewish babies and
bathe in their blood as a remedy.
Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.
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