Fantastic Four

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Va'eira
Fantastic Four

This week's portion begins with the famous four expressions of redemption. Hashem told Moshe that He would "Take them out", "Rescue them", "Redeem them", and "Take them" to be Hashem's people (Ex. 6:6-7). Rebbi Yochanan quotes Rebbi B'naya who says that our Sages instituted that we drink four cups of wine on Passover night because of these four expressions of redemption (Yerushalmi, Pesachim, chap. 10, "Arvei Pesachim", Halachah aleph).

One question that this raises is, why must we drink four cups of wine, at the end of the day, there was only one redemption. Apparently, one cup of wine should have sufficed.

In last week's article we shared a number of reasons explaining why it was necessary for the Jewish People to endure the Egyptian Exile; either to rid them of the Zuhamah, or to teach them how to be a slave. Well, this week, the saga continues. Let's explain.

Prior to creation, God looked into the Torah and used it to create the world. This means that God planted the world with the Torah and the world grew out of the Torah. As such, there are Torah letters that were scattered throughout creation. At that time, the letters were neither formulated nor were they clothed in physical garb. In order to explain what this means, let us proceed.

Only after Mount Sinai did God take those scattered letters and formulate them into words that would have meaning in this physical world. For example, Hashem took the letters tzadi, yud, tzadi, yud, suf and formulated them into the word "Tzitzis" (fringes). Then Hashem clothed the word Tzitzis in a physical garb which became the garment that we wear in order to fulfill this Mitzvah (commandment).

However, before Mount Sinai, the letters were still scattered. Although the Hebrew language existed, the letters were not joined together to formulate words which represent the various Mitzvos. Therefore, those scattered letters did not yet take on any physical properties in the realm of Mitzvos. Rather, those scattered letters were completely spiritual with no physical components to them. This means that those letters were still connected to the Torah which was in Heaven. That Torah was completely spiritual and only applied to a completely nonphysical domain.

There were unique individuals who were able to see those letters buried within creation. They were capable of tapping into them and studying Torah from them. Those individuals were Adam, Chanoch, Mesushelach, Noach, Shem, Eiver, and Avraham.

However, the sins of the people who lived in the generation of the flood caused those letters to be severed from the Torah that was in Heaven. As a result, this world no longer drew life energy from the Torah above. Subsequently, the world was destroyed by the flood.

The sins of that generation also caused those disconnected letters to be exiled. The letters were exiled to Egypt. The reason why Egypt was chosen to be the letters' prison was because the generation of the flood sinned with such intense immorality that even the animals were mating with other animals from different species ((Gn. 6:12; Bereishis Rabba, 28:8; Rebbi Azarya quoting Rebbi Yehudah bar Simon). Since it was immorality which severed the letters, Egypt was the perfect place for them to be exiled into because the decadent society of Egypt was also stooped in immorality (Gn. 42:9). What goes around comes around.

The Arizal (Sha'ar Hapesukim, Shemos) says that after that generation was wiped out, they had to return to this world as a "gilgul" (reincarnation) in order to repair the damage that was done. However, instead of fixing the damage, they further ruined themselves by building a city and a tower intended to wage war against Hashem. After they died out, they came back as reincarnations into the Jews in Egypt.

The Jewish People's mission in Egypt was simple. They caused the letters to be exiled into Egypt to begin with and now they would have to descend to Egypt and bring those very letters out. The Jews were expected to return those letters to God at Mount Sinai. Hashem would then formulate the letters and clothe them in physical garb. Hashem would then give them a "new Torah" with physical properties that it did not previously have (Megaleh Amukos Vayishlach, Meor Einayim Shemos, Pri Tzddik Vaeira, Maggid of Mezheritch).

The Shvilei Pinachas says that all of this ties into the four expressions of redemption. The reason why Hashem expressed Himself with four different terminologies is because God was referring to the Torah which can be understood on four different levels; pshat, remez, derush, and sod (simple, codes, expounding, and secrets; Arizal, Sha'ar Hagilgulim, preface, #11). With four expressions of redemption, God was saying that the Torah itself, with its four parts, was going to be liberated from Egypt.

This also explains why the Sages instituted that we drink four cups on Passover night. The four cups correspond to the four expressions and the four expressions correspond to the four parts of the Torah. Therefore, the four cups also correspond the four parts of Torah. With each cup we celebrate a different aspect of Torah that was liberated from Egypt. The first cup celebrates the liberation of pshat, the second cup celebrates the liberation of remez, the third cup celebrates the liberation of drash, and the fourth cup celebrates the liberation of sod.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that our sages instituted that the four cups should specifically be of wine (preferably). This is because the Zohar (Eikev, pg. 271b; Pro. 9:5) says that wine represents the Oral Torah. Just as wine is found within the grape, similarly, the Oral Law is found within the Written. Just as one can only access the wine after squeezing the grapes, similarly, the Oral Law can only be accessed after "squeezing" the Written.

To be even more specific, wine connects with the sod (secret) aspect of the Torah. We see this from the Talmud which says, "When wine enters, sod, (secrets), comes out" (Eiruvin, chap. 6, "Hadar", pg. 65a). This means to say that if a person drinks wine properly, in the right amount and with the right intention, one can tap into the sod of the Torah. This is why the numerical value of "Yayin" (wine; spelled yud, yud, nun) is seventy. Seventy is also the numerical value of "Sod" (secret; spelled samech, vov, dalet). This furthers the connection between wine and Torah secrets.

There is another liquid which also represents Torah. That liquid is water (Dorshei Reshumos, Baba Kamma, chap.7, "Merubah", pg. 82a). Water corresponds to the other three aspects of Torah: pshat, remez, and derush. Perhaps we could suggest a support to this. Since water can appear in three different forms: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas (steam), it corresponds to three aspects of Torah.

This is why the Talmud says that real wine is one into which you add three times its amount of water (Rava, Shabbos, chap. 8, "Hamotzi Yayin", pg. 77a). The deeper meaning of this passage is that real Torah is one that contains "water" (pshat, remez, derash) and "wine" (sod). A person must fill himself with the basics of pshat, remez, and derush before delving into sod (Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah, 4:13; Rema, Yora Deah, 246:4). Otherwise, it's not good wine, meaning, it's not good sod.

According to this new insight, not only do the four cups of wine correspond to the four levels of Torah, but every cup of wine corresponds to the four levels of Torah. This is because each cup contains three parts water and one part wine. The sum total of parts are four, corresponding to the four aspects of Torah.

However, this new insight seems a bit troubling. If one cup of wine represents all four levels of Torah by itself, why is it necessary to drink four cups of wine? Apparently, one cup would suffice. Perhaps we could suggest that we still need four cups of wine because there is a pshat, remez, derush and sod in pshat. There is also a pshat, remez derush, and sod in remez, etc...Therefore the first cup which represents pshat contains three parts water and one part wine corresponding to the pshat, remez, derush, and sod of pshat. The second cup which represents remez contains three parts water and one part wine correspondind to the pshat, remez, derush, and sod of remez, and so on.

Now, we are all familiar with the prevalent custom of having a fifth cup of wine on the Passover table called "Kos Shel Eliyahu" (The Cup of Elijah; Chok Ya'akov, Orach Chaim, 480:6). The Chassan Sofer (Passover Hagaddah) says that this fifth cup of wine corresponds to the fifth expression of redemption, "V'heveisi" (and I will bring; Ex. 6:8). However we do not drink from that cup because the verse of "V'heveisi" goes on to say, "And when I bring you to the Land". Since we have not all returned to the Land in a permanent way, that promise has not yet been fulfilled. Therefore we do not drink of its wine. Instead, we place it on the table demonstrating our yearning for the Final Redemption which will be announced by Elijah (Mal. 3:23); thus the name of the cup, "Kos Shel Eliyahu". At that time, we will drink of its wine.

Another reason why the fifth cup is called "Kos Shel Eliyahu" is because the fifth cup represents the Final Redemption. When Eliyahu comes and announces the Final Redemption, the fiftieth gate of understanding will be revealed (Rosh Hashanah, chap. 1, "Arba'a Roshei Shanim", pg. 21b). Who will be the one to teach us those deep Torah insights from the fiftieth level? Eliyahu Hanavi. How do we know this?

Whenever the Talmud cannot resolve a question, it concludes that discussion with the word "Teiku" (unresolved). The Tosafos Yom Tov (Edios, chap. 8, "Hayid", Mishnah 7) says that "Teiku" means much more that "unresolved". "Teiku" is spelled tuf, yud, koof, vov. These four letters serve as the acronym for "Tishbi Yitaretz Kushyos Va'abayos" (The Toshabaite (Eliyahu Hatishbi) will answer questions and problems). The reason why even the Talmud cannot resolve certain issues is because those topics touch upon the Torah from the fiftieth level of understanding. We do not have access to that Torah yet. However, we hope for the day that Eliyahu comes and announces the Final Redemption when the fiftieth level of understanding will be exposed.

Therefore, the "fifth" cup of "wine" represents that "fiftieth" level of deep Torah understanding that will be taught to us by Eliyahu Hanavi; thus its name, "Kos Shel Eliyahu". It is the final deliverance of Torah that we long for.

All of this information leads us to a practical exercise that each and every one of us can do. Once a week, let us study a Torah work that contains all four levels of Torah. In this way, we show our yearning to be taught the deepest teachings that are still locked in the fiftieth level.

One work that weaves between all four levels of Torah is the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh commentary on the Torah. This work has been translated into English. By studying this commentary even just once a week on the upcoming Torah portion, we can further open our minds, hearts, and souls to the four components of Torah. Eventually, we will deserve receiving the Torah Chadashah from the deepest of levels.

So, may we all be blessed, in this gilgul, to study Torah on every level and with its powerful letters continue to draw holiness even from the fiftieth level of understanding, and thus deserve the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid who will usher in the Final Redemption, when we will enjoy the deepest teachings that will be delivered by Eliyahu Hanavi, which will make it seem like a whole new Torah that we will drink a "L'chaim" to with a fifth cup of aged wine.