For the week ending 31 March 2012 / 7 Nisan 5772

Red Wine

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Rachel

Dear Rabbi,

Wine is used throughout the Jewish year for different occasions and for different purposes. It’s my understanding that any type and color of wine can be used for these different occasions. Is this so regarding the four cups at the Seder, or must they be red?

Dear Rachel,

The mitzvah of the four cups of wine at the Passover Seder may be fulfilled with any type or color of wine, and even with grape juice for those who find it very difficult to drink wine.

However, the ideal way to fulfill the mitzvah is with red wine. There are several reasons for this, which recall different aspects of the Egyptian exile and exodus.

Red wine serves as a reminder of the blood of the Jewish children whom Pharaoh slaughtered so as to bathe in their blood, which he did, thinking it would cure his skin condition. This blood shall never be silenced and even after thousands of years after this tragedy it will not be forgotten nor forgiven.

Red wine also serves as a reminder of the blood that was smeared on the doorposts as a sign when G-d passed over the homes of Israel, preventing the destruction from striking them. By using red wine we express our prayer that G-d continue to protect us and deliver us from all our enemies.

Red wine also recalls two great mitzvot performed by the Jewish people on the eve of the Exodus for which they gained merit to be redeemed: circumcision and the Passover sacrifice. G-d conveyed to Israelthat they must circumcise themselves and then to bring the Passover sacrifice, which the entire nation did. This merit is recalled in the elevated cup.

Finally, red wine symbolizes Divine Judgment that will be brought against all the past and present persecutors of the Jewish People. G-d will pour His cup of wrath upon these evildoers, then fill the cup of Redemption in the hand of Israel.

  • Sources: The Book of Our Heritage, Nissan ch.5, p. 598

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