By Rabbi Moshe Bloom
Torah VeHa’aretz Institute
“I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I, the L-rd” (Sh’mot 6:8).
This verse follows four verses that include the four terms of redemption: hotzeiti, hitzalti, ga’alti, and lakachti; “I will take out,” “I will save,” “I will redeem,” and “I will take.” Our verse includes what seems to be the fifth term — “heveiti,” “I will bring,” the ultimate goal of the entire process of redemption: to bring the Jewish People to the Land of Israel. In light of this, it seems strange that when our Sages instituted the mitzvah of drinking cups of wine as one of the mitzvot at Seder night, they only require four cups, basing this—among other things — on the first four terms of redemption.
The fifth cup is mentioned in certain versions of the Talmud in a beraita quoting Rabbi Tarfon, who holds that one should drink the fifth cup after the second recitation of the Hallel (Hallel ha’gadol). The poskim disagree as to the status of drinking a fifth cup. Some hold that we should not drink the fifth cup at all, since we may not add to the four cups instituted by the Sages (Rashi, Rashbam, Ba’al HaMaor). Others hold that if one wants to drink more wine, it is possible to drink this cup, but it is not a mitzvah (Mordechai). Yet, others maintain that it is an exemplary mitzvah to drink this fifth cup (as implied by the Rambam).
This begs the question: why is the fifth term discriminated against, especially since it is the ultimate goal? Obviously the intent was not to leave the Jewish People in the desert!
The Maharal in Gevurot Hashem (chapter 65) relates to this question; he himself holds that while there is no obligation to drink a fifth cup, it is a mitzvah. He believes that the fifth cup represents the completion of the redemption, and was instituted as a representation of something that is “more than redemption.” Here you are probably raising an eyebrow; what could possibly be more than redemption? It seems that such a thing does exist. Don’t get disappointed, but the Maharal is referring to parnassah, a livelihood, saying that this is even greater than redemption!
While the Maharal does not directly relate to the fifth term of heveiti, it seems that the principle is one and the same. We are dazzled by the extraordinary: When natural order is interrupted and miracles take place. The exodus from Egypt and the whole period in the desert were exactly that, as the Jewish People experienced miracles right and left. In sharp contrast, upon arrival in the Land of Israel, hardly any outright miracles occurred. While there were several outstanding miraculous events — the splitting of the Jordan, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and the boulders falling from heaven at Ma’ale Beit Horon — as a rule, the process was slow and natural. As the Torah promises: “I will drive them out before you little by little …” (Sh’mot 23:30; supported by archeological findings). Most of the process involved standard warfare, which included Divine assistance, but no overt miracles. Surprisingly, it is precisely this final stage of the redemption from Egypt, settling the Land of Israel, that is far less spectacular than the stages preceding it.
Furthermore, even if throughout the process of the conquest miracles were still present, following this period, when the Jewish People were already settled in their land, our presence seemed to be a given. Of course we are here; it’s our land, and we lived here for hundreds of years. It takes a special, concerted effort to realize that even this routine is not at all to be taken for granted.
It is hard work to internalize this good situation that continues to persist is not self-understood, since G-d is sustaining us in His Divine goodness, every day, at every moment. For this reason, it is livelihood and the arrival and settling in the Land of Israel that the Maharal believes this verse is referring to. While at face value, these things might be viewed as normal and taken for granted, they are truly ongoing miracles. It is much easier to remember the miracles of Egypt; it is much more difficult to understand that ongoing good is also a tremendous miracle: “Your miracles and wonders that are with us every day.” This view of life is a higher standard than the minimum that is generally expected of people. For this reason, the fifth cup is not compulsory.
Rabbi Moshe Bloom is head of the English department of Torah VeHa’aretz Institute. Torah VeHa’aretz Institute (the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel) engages in research, public education, and the application of contemporary halachic issues that come to the fore in the bond between Torah and the Land of Israel today. For additional information and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972-8-684-7325.