Winning D'var Torah, Day 3
One of the most well known aspects of Shiriyah that students always look forward to is the Dvar Torah competition! Each day, one student from each grade delivers a Dvar Torah that responds to a specific question and relates to their grade’s theme. Even though students are given a specific question to answer, they are granted liberty to incorporate any additional information into their speeches. The student who presents the best Dvar Torah to Rabbi Weinberg and Rabbi Weiss is invited to speak in front of the whole school during Mincha. This year, the Dvar Torah winner of the third day of Shiriyah was sophomore Chloe Ganjian. The sophomore theme was the four cups of wine that we drink at our Pesach seders. Chloe was tasked to write a Dvar Torah about why it is a mitzvah to recite Birkat Hamazon over wine, and she did exactly that. Here is her Dvar Torah:
This year’s Shiriyah theme revolves around Pesach, and for the Sophomore's, specifically the four cups of wine that one drinks throughout the seder. It is important to begin with the pressing question of why wine and Kiddush are such important aspects of Jewish life, and why at every significant event it seems that there is always kiddush to be recited. Well, if you ask any student who has attended yeshiva, they will hopefully be able to tell you that kiddush on Friday night symbolizes and testifies to G-d’s creation of the world, and how he worked for six days and rested on the seventh. But does this explain all other scenarios where kiddush is recited? Like why it is normal for Jews to drink wine at a newborn’s brit milah at nine o'clock on a Tuesday morning? Or why in talmudic times, wine was used to comfort the mourners?
Well, to understand this, we must delve into Chazal’s teachings. Chazal taught that in order to enhance a mitzvah, one should perform it over wine. This therefore explains why weddings, brit milot, pidyon haben, and in talmudic times, even comforting mourners, were done using wine.
As taught in Pesachim, it was also ordained that Birkat Hamazon be said over a glass of wine, known as a kos shel bracha. This is most familiar in the Passover Seder where all four major mitzvot of the night are performed over wine.
However, it is interesting to note that there are some different opinions regarding the use of kos shel bracha. The Rambam, Rif, Rashba, Meiri, and Smag hold that Birkat Hamazon does not REQUIRE wine, and it is merely a meritorious action. On the other hand, the Rosh, Tur, Tosafot, Rashbam, and Rabbeinu Yonah REQUIRE that one benching must have wine.
The Ran, quoted by the Rama (ibid), says that according to all opinions, it is nevertheless a “mitzvah min ha'muvchar” – a good thing, to bench over a cup of wine.
Now that we understand the application of wine and kiddush in birkat hamazon, we can really apply it to this year’s Shiriyah theme of the four cups of wine. It is agreeable that drinking wine and saying kiddush may enhance, signify and beautify a festivity, as Chazal has taught. This perfectly ties into the four cups of wine, and it beautifully explains why each cup of wine is drunk at its specific time. Each of the four cups of wine that we drink act as a symbol of one of the four leshonot of geula, which represent the four stages of redemption. As the pasuk states, “VeHotzeiti, VeHitzalti, veGa’alti, veLakachti” – “I will take you out, I will save you, I will redeem you, and I will take you.”
Following Chazal's teaching, each of these four cups is glorified in some way. The first cup at the very beginning of the seder is enhanced with Kiddush. The second cup is glorified with the first two paragraphs of Hallel, recited in the Magid portion of the seder. The third cup is glorified with the recitation of Kiddush, specifically Borei Pri Haghen, at the end of Birkat Hamazon. Finally, the fourth cup is glorified with the end and rest of hallel.
Today, as it is the third day of Shiriyah, I would like to delve into the third cup, veGa’alti- redemption. Instead of having this cup be consumed at any random point in the Seder, it is specifically meant to be drunk after Birchat Hamazon. The reason for this is that we want to REALLY glorify this cup. But why? What is so special about the third cup that it must be drunk after Birkat Hamazon and glorified in such an intense way? Well, this cup represents the true redemption of the Jewish people. With this third cup and third stage of redemption, the Jewish people are finally able to escape their spiritual Misraim. In the first two cups, VeHotzeiti, VeHitzalti, “I will take you out, I will save you,” Benei yisrael are being physically removed from Misraim and their back breaking work. However, when does their spiritual redemption occur? When are the Jews finally able to break away from the slave mentality? When can they actually FEEL free, not just be free, but FEEL free?
The answer is with the third cup. With this third stage of redemption, VeGa’alti, the Jewish people are FINALLY able to FEEL free. That is why it is so important to glory this cup and enhance its value.
As Rashi and other commentators taught, hiddur mitzvah. Beautify and glorify a mitzvah in all possible ways that you can.
B'ezrat Hashem, may we all glorify and beautify every mitzah, no matter how small or large, that we do before Hashem, and may we take this lesson and apply it to our own lives and Pesach seders. Like the four cups, may we also find meaning in everything we do.