Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the four terms refer to four separate promises Hashem was giving the Jewish people. I shall take you out (v'hotzaysee) was a promise that the Jews would be freed from slavery, even though they would still remain under the domination of Egypt; this was fulfilled, according to the Talmud, on Rosh Hashanah (year 2448), when they ceased their labor--a full six months before the actual Exodus. I shall rescue you (v'hitzaltee) was the promise that they would gain complete freedom from Egyptian rule and authority. I shall redeem you (v'ga'alti) hinted at the splitting of the Sea, where the Egyptian army was drowned, for a slave who has escaped from a cruel master still fears that his master will pursue him and take him back into custody (or murder him in his rage); the slave's "redemption" cannot be considered complete until he sees his master dead once and for all. And, finally, I shall take you to me (v'lakachti) represents the culmination, and ultimate purpose, of the Exodus: to receive the Torah at Sinai, becoming the bearers of G-d's precious Law.
However, careful readers of the above text might notice what looks suspiciously like a fifth expression of promised redemption: I shall bring you to the Land (v'hayvaysee). Why didn't the Rabbis enact the drinking of a fifth cup of wine corresponding to it? (That they were afraid we would pass out and never get to sing Chad Gadya seems unlikely.) It's actually the subject of a Talmudic disagreement, and since the question was undecided, we set aside the fifth cup for Elijah, who will clear up all of our halakhic uncertainties when he comes to usher in the Moshiach. (Vilna Gaon, quoted by Rabbi Josheph Elias in his commentary on the Haggadah; Mesorah Publications.)
A great living Torah sage, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, sh'lita, in his commentary on the Chumash, Ta'am V'Da'as, offers an interesting explanation of why there's no mitzvah of a fifth cup. The four cups, he writes, correspond to the four great kindnesses Hashem did for us in Egypt, as discussed above. Bringing us to the Land of Israel, however, is no great favor in and of itself; rather, its whole worth is utterly dependent on the meaning of the fourth expression, I shall take you to Me (v'lakachti)--that is to say, on receiving and keeping the Torah. And that expression already has its designated cup! In other words, the Land of Israel is a tremendous blessing...IF it is the site where we live as G-d's people, following the Torah. If not, it might give us an international address, true, but it does not rise to the level of necessitating a fifth cup on the night celebrating our redemption.
Pesach is not so far away (though Purim's revelry must be dealt with first...thankfully!): as we read these sections of the Torah dealing with the Exodus, it doesn't hurt to remember the goal of it all that was clearly stated to Moshe at the burning bush: "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain." (3, 12)
Edelstein is Director of the Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP). Phone:
Please be in touch
Produced and distributed by
the Ben Portman Computer facilites
This Dvar Torah page created
and hosted courtesy of