Following several chapters that deal with the Passover sacrifice, the tenth perek of Massekhet Pesahim returns to the holiday itself – specifically to the seder that takes place on the eve of the 15th of Nisan. In fact, early manuscripts of the massekhet have this perek appearing immediately after the discussion of hametz and matza that are the concern of the first four chapters, closing what is referred to as Pesah rishon – the first set of rules of the Passover holiday (the second set of rules being those that deal with the sacrifice). Aside from the basic biblical commandments that make up the seder, such as eating the korban Pesah together with matza and marror, discussing the exodus story, etc., the Sages added other commandments, such as drinking four cups of wine and dining in a manner that befits an honorable, free man. Similarly, we are instructed to behave in a manner that will encourage children to ask their parents about the curious behaviors of the meal, in order to allow for discussion of the exodus from Egypt and its miracles.
These issues are the topic of perek Arvei Pesahim, which begins on our daf.
The first Mishna in the perek teaches that every person is obligated to drink four cups of wine, even if he needs to accept charity in order to do so.
The Rashbam points out the source for this Rabbinic enactment. When God first turns to Moshe and promises to takes the Jewish People out of Egypt, He makes use of four different terms that describe the redemption (see Shmot 6:6-7):
- Ve-hotzeti – and I will bring them out;
- Ve-hitzalti – and I will deliver them;
- Ve-ga’alti – and I will redeem them;
- Ve-lakahti – and I will take them to me as a people.
The Me’iri explains the unique significance of each term as follows:
- Ve-hotzeti – I will bring them out from the difficult activities that are forced upon them as slaves.
- Ve-hitzalti –I will deliver them out of the physical bondage of belonging to a master.
- Ve-ga’alti – I will redeem them by smiting their enemies and making them free men.
- Ve-lakahti – I will take them to me as a people by giving them the Torah.
Other reasons for the four cups of wine are mentioned by the Yerushalmi.