The sages of the second temple era introduced the practice of drinking four cups of wine at the Passover Seder on the night of the 15th of Nissan. This article will examine the sources of this ritual through the pardes method of exposition (i.e. literal meaning, exegesis, allusions, and secrets of the Torah), drawn from scripture, Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar with associated commentaries. In addition this article will analyze the sources and halachic considerations of drinking a 5th cup at the Seder. A companion article on this web site “Four Cups of Wine – Halacha” will examine the ritual of drinking 4 cups of wine from the perspective of Halacha (e.g. quantity of wine per cup, type of wine, blessings, etc.)
Literal Meaning – פשט
Although the Torah does not directly indicate this ritual there are hints in the verses of Genesis 40:11, 13, and 21 describing the dream of the butler and its interpretation and the different stages of redemption in Exodus 6:6-8. The details of this exposition will be explained in the section “Hints and Allusions” of this article.
Exegesis – דרש
The Torah (Exodus 13:8) states, “You shall tell your son on that day (night of the 15th of Nissan) … that Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt.” The Mechilta, a midrash halacha compiled during the second century of the common era, derives the obligation to recount the Exodus from Egypt from this verse which forms the foundation of the Seder. Although the Torah commands a father to tell his son, the Mechilta explains that this obligation applies even if a person is alone based upon the verse (ibid. 13:3), “Remember this day on which you left Egypt.”
The Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 99b) mentions the requirement for 4 cups of wine at the Seder but does not provide a source from scripture. Even though the Midrash and Jerusalem Talmud provide several hints for consuming 4 cups of wine at the Seder the Talmud was not satisfied with these hints and preferred a more direct source which is not available from scripture.
The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 472:8), following the Talmud (Pesachim 108b), rules that if one would drink the four cups at once he has not fulfilled the obligation of these 4 cups. Rather each cup must be consumed at a distinct point in the Seder as shown in the following table which lists the number of the cup, place in the Seder, folio page in the Talmud, and citation in the Shulchan Aruch.
|2||After story of Exodus||116a||474|
|4||After praise of Hashem||117b||480|
|5 (dispute)||Praise for land of Israel||118a||481:1|
The companion article discusses this order of cups in detail especially with respect to the required blessings before and after consuming the wine. Here a brief summary follows. The 1st cup is part of the Kiddush ceremony which applies to every festive meal at night, whether on Shabbat or the festivals. The 2nd cup is unique to the Seder and is consumed after reciting the story of the exodus. The 3rd cup is consumed after the meal which in the case of the Seder is mandatory. However during the rest of the year one may say the grace after meals with a cup of wine and drink the wine on an optional basis (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 182:1). The 4th cup is also unique to the Seder and is consumed after completing the Hallel and additional praises to Hashem.
The four cups follow a distinct pattern with the odd numbered cups related to the meal (i.e. before and after). The even numbered cups relate to deliverance (i.e. from Egypt and the messianic era. In this manner another pattern emerges with cups 1 and 2 relating to prior events (i.e. before the meal and the historical exodus from Egypt.) Cups 3 and 4 relate to the future after the meal and the messianic deliverance.
In addition to the 4 cups of wine, the reader may ask, “What is the significance of the 5th cup? There are many answers to this question in terms of law and allusion.
The initial point of discussion is based upon a variant reading in the Talmud (Pesachim 118a) as follows, “The Sages taught: With regard to the fourth cup, one completes Hallel then recites the great Hallel; this is the statement of Rabbi Tarfon.” Some of the early Talmudic commentators (e.g. Rabbeinu Chananel, Rif, and Rambam) have a variant reading which states not the 4th cup but the 5th cup. Assuming this variant reading is authoritative, the codifiers of Halacha ask, “Why was this 5th cup not mentioned elsewhere in the Talmud?” In fact when the Talmud discusses the obligation of drinking wine at the Seder it mentions only 4 cups and not 5 (e.g. ibid. 99b, 108a, 108b, and 117b). Due to this discrepancy some reject the variant reading resulting while others accept this reading resulting in the following rulings for the 5th cup as explained below:
This view rejects the variant reading and holds that one is not allowed to add to the 4 cups of wine (Rashbam on Peaschim 118a and Rabbi Yosef Caro in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 481:1) for the following reasons (Mishna Berurah 481:1):
- Drunkenness – excessive drinking of wine could lead to drunkenness which would detract from the holiness of this night and lead one to miss the mitzvah of retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt after the Seder.
- Taste of matzoth – excessive drinking of wine would remove the taste of matzoth from the end of the meal. This taste should remain with a person to reflect on the miracles which occurred at the exodus from Egypt.
This view accepts the variant reading of the 5th cup but also takes into account that the Talmud elsewhere only specifies 4 cups. Therefore to reconcile these two positions this opionion rules that the 5th cup is only optional while the 4 cups are mandatory (Maimonides Laws of Passover – Leaven and Unleavened Bread 8:10).
This view, supported by the Raavad on Rif page 26b of Pesachim, accepts the variant reading of the 5th cup as authoritative in opposition to the Mishna. Since the Talmud discusses the opinion of Rabbi Tarfon with respect to the great Hallel this indicates that his opinion is accepted by the Talmud. Hence this view explains that 4 cups are mandatory but a 5th cup is commendable.
The Great Hallel
The reader may ask, “What the significance of the Great Hallel which is mentioned in the Talmud (ibid.) and how does it relate to the 5th cup?”
In addition to the Hallel recited in the Haggadah, the Talmud (Pesachim 118a) mentions the requirement to recite the great Hallel (Psalms 136) which contains 26 verses, with each verse ending with the phrase, “For His (Hashem’s) kindness endures forever.”The Talmud explains that Hashem’s special kindness is expressed in verse 136:25, “He (Hashem) gives nourishment to all flesh (whether deserving or not).” In addition the Talmud (ibid.) explains that the number 26 corresponds to the 26 generations of the world before the giving of the Torah (i.e. from Adam to Moses) who were sustained with Hashem’s kindness. The author would like to point out that the 26 verses in chapter 136 contain a hidden reference to Hashem’s kindness to the Israelites in their history, especially in reference to the exodus. The numerical value of the Tetragrammaton is 26 and the gematria of each of the four letters of this name, in succession, correspond to verses in chapter 136 as follows:
|Letter||Gematria||Verse (Chapter 136)||Theme of Verse|
|י||10||10||Plague of first born|
|ה||5||15 (10+5)||Splitting of the sea|
|ו||6||21 (15+6)||Granting land of Israel|
|ה||5||26 (21+5)||Praise to Hashem|
The text of these verses follows:
10 – “To Him (Hashem) Who smote Egypt through their firstborn, for His kindness is forever.”
15 – “And He threw Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Reeds, for His kindness is forever.”
21 –“And He gave their land (i.e. Israel) as an inheritance, for His kindness is forever.”
26 – “Give thanks to the G-d of heaven, for His kindness is forever.”
With this approach we can see that the Great Hallel is a summary of the deliverance story ending in praise. For example the 10th verse of this Psalm corresponds with the 10th plague marking the exodus from Egypt. The 15th verse mentions the destruction of Pharaoh and his army at the Sea of Reeds, marking the final deliverance from Egyptian rule. The 21st verse mentions the land of Israel which is the ultimate destination of the Israelites. Finally the 26th verse (gematria of Hashem’s name) commands the Israelites to praise Hashem.
The 5th cup cannot be consumed unless one recites the Great Hallel because each cup must be connected with a significant point in the Seder (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 481:1). Verse 21 of this psalm mentions the giving of the land of Israel thereby linking the land of Israel to the 5th cup which will be explained in the next section “Hints and Allusions”.
Hints and allusions – רמז
Although the Babylonian Talmud did not provide a source for drinking 4 cup of wine at the Seder both The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 10:1) and the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 88:5) provide 5 of the following reasons (and in the same order) of the 4 cups. The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 6:4) adds a sixth reason, namely that the 4 cups correspond to the four decrees of Pharaoh against the Israelites as mentioned in Exodus Rabbah 1:12.
The 4 cups therefore correspond to 4 of the following:
- Stages of redemption from Egypt.
- Mentions of the wine cup in the butler’s dream.
- Kingdoms that subjugated the Israelites.
- Cups of punishment applied to hostile gentiles.
- Cups of consolation or deliverance for the Israelites.
- Decrees of Pharaoh.
For each of these reasons, where possible, the author will consider the possibility of increasing the number for each reason from 4 to 5 to allow for the 5th cup.
1 – Redemption from Egypt
Both sources (i.e. Jerusalem Talmud and Midrash) identify 4 stages of redemption based on the following verses in chapter 6 of Exodus. The verses run in chronological order with the disputed 5th stage relating to the settlement of the land of Israel which occurred 40 years after the exodus from Egypt.
Verse 6 – “I (Hashem) shall take you (Israelites) out from the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”
Verse 7 – “I (Hashem) shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be your G-d.”
Verse 8 – “I (Hashem) shall bring you to the land (i.e. Israel) which I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
The table below shows the corresponding cup number, redemption stage in English, in Hebrew, date of occurrence (year number from creation), and verse in Exodus chapter 6.
|Number||Stage (English)||Stage (Hebrew)||Date||Verse|
|1||Take out||והוצאתי||1 Tishrei 2448||6|
|2||Rescue you||והצלתי||15 Nissan 2448||6|
|3||Redeem you||וגאלתי||21 Nissan 2448||6|
|4||Take you||ולקחתי||6 Sivan 2448||7|
|5 (Disputed)||Bring you||והבאתי||10 Nissan 2488||8|
Take you out – End slavery
The first stage corresponds to the end of the intense slavery as the verse states, “I shall take you from the burdens of Egypt.” The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a) states that this freedom began on the first of the New Year about six months before the actual Exodus. However the Israelites were still subjects to Pharaoh to perform national service or individual work for the Egyptians.
The reader may ask, “From which verse in Exodus did the Talmud derive that the intense slavery ended on the 1st of Tishrei?” Especially in view of the fact that the Torah did not specify any of the dates of the 10 plagues except for the last one. The Talmud derives this date though exegesis of several verses. First the Talmud (ibid.) establishes that Joseph was released from prison on this day by linking Psalms 81:4-5 to 81:7. The former verses state “Sound a shofar at the New Moon, at the covered time of our Festival day. For this is a statute for Israel, a judgment of the God of Jacob” (Psalms 81:4–5). This is a reference to Rosh Hashanah (1st of Tishrei), the only Festival that occurs at the time of the New Moon, when the moon is covered and cannot be seen. The next 2 verses relate to Joseph as follows, “As a testimony for Joseph, He (Hashem) ordained it, when he went forth over the land of Egypt, when I understood a language that I had not known (ibid. 6). I removed his shoulder from burdens; his hands were removed from the cauldron (ibid. 7).” From these verses we see that Joseph (verse 6) was freed from prison on Rosh Hashanah. Then the Talmud links Psalms 81:7 to Exodus 6:6 though the common word “burdens” to establish that the intense slavery similarly ended on Rosh Hashanah. This derivation highlights the importance of Joseph’s freedom which was a result of Joseph’s interpretation of the butler’s dream through the cups of wine which will be explained in the second reason “Mentions of wine cup”.
Rescue you – Free from Egypt (The exodus)
The Israelites left Egypt and thus were totally free from Pharaoh on the 15th of Nissan as the verse states (ibid. 6), “I shall rescue you from their service.” It is interesting to note that the Torah does not explicitly state in the book of Exodus that the exodus occurred on the 15th of Nissan. Perhaps this is to emphasize the commandments that preceded the exodus rather than the date of the freedom itself. However this date can be established through the narrative in Exodus as shown in the following table:
|Date in Nissan||Action||Verse in Exodus|
|14th (afternoon)||Slaughter of Paschal offering||12:6|
|15th (night)||Eating of the Paschal offering||12:8|
|15th (day)||Exodus from Egypt||12:51|
In addition the Torah clearly states (Numbers 33:4), “On the 15th of the 1st month (i.e. Nissan) the Children of Israel went forth with an upraised hand before the eyes of all Egypt.” Furthermore the Torah establishes the 15th of Nissan as a festival (Exodus 23:6).
Redeem you – Crossing of the Seas of Reeds
The Torah refers to the 3rd stage of redemption (ibid. 6:6), “I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” corresponding to the crossing of the Sea of Reeds on the morning of the 21st of Nissan. Although the Torah does not explicitly mention this date the Mechilta (on Exodus 14:5) establishes the time frame as follows:
|Date in Nissan||Action||Verse in Exodus|
|15th (day)||Exodus from Egypt||12:51|
|18th||Pharaoh’s messengers count 3 days||14:5|
|21st (night)||Pharaoh returned with his army||14:9|
The Mechilta explains, as quoted by Rashi on Exodus 14:5, Pharaoh sent Egyptian messengers along with the Israelites to see if they would return to Egypt. After 3 days journey (Exodus 8:23), the messengers realized that the Israelites had no intention of returning to Egypt. They quickly returned to Egypt on the 19th of Nissan and informed Pharaoh of the Israelites plan to flee Egypt. Pharaoh returned with his army on the night of 21st of Nissan and was drowned in the Sea of Reeds on the following morning of the 21st (ibid 14:28).Hence the Torah declared the 21st of Nissan as a holiday to commemorate this great miracle (Ibid. 12:16).
Along the theme of redemption the sages of the second temple era (Pesachim 117b) instituted blessings for the redemption from Egypt, both in the morning and evening prayers with the formula, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who redeemed Israel.” In addition the sages instituted the following themes, in chronological order, in the text of this blessing:
- Hashem’s kingdom
- Killing of the first born
- Exodus from Egypt
- Splitting of the Seas of Reeds
The Mishna Berurah (66:53) brings different opinions whether these themes are essential to the blessing or recommended. In any event we see that the splitting of the Sea of Reeds is the completion of redemption from Egypt.
Take you – Giving of the Torah
In addition to the physical redemption from Egypt, Hashem redeemed the Israelites spiritually on the 6th of Sivan by giving them the Torah as the verse states (Exodus 6:7), “I (Hashem) shall take you to Me (divine) for a people and I shall be your G-d”. Although the Torah does not explicitly mention the date of giving of the Torah, the Talmud Shabbat 86b establishes this date as the 6th of Sivan which today we observe as the holiday of Shavuot. Although Rabbi Yose holds the 7th of Sivan the majority view of the sages is the 6th of Sivan.
Bring you – to the land of Israel
Exodus 6:8 provides the 5th expression of redemption, ““I (Hashem) shall bring you to the land (i.e. Israel) which I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”, implying a 5th cup. Some explain our practice to drink only 4 cups because the sages did not wish to mandate a 5th cup when the Israelites are still in exile. However the sages allowed a 5th cup when reciting the Great Hallel which includes verses 136:21-22 which speak of the land of Israel thereby connecting the 5th cup to the land of Israel as follows:
Verse 21 – “And gave their land (Israel) as a heritage, for His (Hashem’s) kindness endures forever.”
Verse 22 – “A heritage for Israel, for His (Hashem’s) kindness endures forever.”
2 – Four mentions of the wine cup in the butler’s dream
The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 88:5) finds an additional allusion to the 4 cups of wine at the Seder in the butler’s dream which was interpreted by Joseph. This interpretation led to Joseph’s freedom, his appointment as viceroy, and eventual settlement of his family in Egypt which set the stage for the future exodus from Egypt. The verses from Genesis 40 follow:
Verse 11 (3 mentions of cup) – “Pharaoh’s cup was in my (butler’s) hand. I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm.”
Verse 13 (1 mention of cup) – “In another 3 days Pharaoh will restore you (the butler) to your post and you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand.”
However there is a 5th mention of the word “cup” in Verse 21 as follows:
Verse 21 – “He (Pharaoh) restored the butler to his position and he (the butler) placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm.”
The commentaries on this Midrash point out that the reason the sages instituted only 4 cups because this verse speaks of the result of the dream, not the dream and its interpretation which refer directly to Joseph. However in the opinion of the author we find an allusion to the 5th cup in a similar manner to the redemption stages, namely actual and future. Here also the 4 references to the cup refer to the dream interpretation with the 5th mention referring to the implementation of the dream.
3 – Four Kingdoms that subjugated the Israelites
The Midrash (e.g. Genesis Rabbah 2:4 and 16:4) explains based upon the prophecies of Daniel (e.g. 7:3-27) that 4 nations will subjugate the Israelites starting from Babylon, continuing through Persia and Greece, and ending with Rome and its associated regimes before the advent of the messiah. By drinking these 4 cups the Israelites express their faith in Hashem that they will be redeemed from this exile just as they were redeemed from the previous 3.
Although the sages instituted 4 cups of wine in reference to the 4 exiles mentioned above, one could find an allusion to 5 cups by including the initial exile of Egypt making a total of 5 exiles.
4 – Four Cups of punishment (applied to hostile gentiles)
The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 88:5) finds 4 verses that mention the word cup in reference to punishment of the enemies of Israel (i.e. Jeremiah 25:15 and 51:7, Psalms 11:6 and 75:9). Here too, one can find an allusion to the 5th cup through a verse in Lamentations 4:21, “Rejoice and exult, O daughter of Edom … to you will the cup pass, you will be drunk and become sick.” The Midrash (ibid.) did not select this verse as one of the 4 mentioned above because this verse refers to only one nation (i.e. Edom). By contrast the other verses refer to many nations. Although Jeremiah 51:7 initially refers to Babylon, “Babylon is a golden cup in Hashem’s hand, it intoxicates all the earth; nations have drunk of her wine, therefore they become deranged”, the verse later mentions many nations. In the opinion of the author the mention in Lamentations 4:21 is fitting for the 5th cup because after the eventual fall of Edom the messiah will reign and the Israelites will return to the land of Israel.
The prophet Isaiah (51:17 and 22) mentions that the Israelites have drunk from the cup of retribution during their long exile. In fact the prophet Isaiah mentions the word “cup” a total of 4 times in these two verses corresponding to the 4 mentions of the cup of punishment. In the messianic era the nations that persecuted the Israelites will themselves drink from this cup, The Midrash did not refer to these verses from Isaiah because the Israelites originally drank from this cup. The Midrash selected verses that only refer to the enemies of Israel in keeping with redemption theme of the Seder.
5 – Four Cups of consolation or deliverance for the Israelites
The Midrash (ibid.) finds four mentions of cups of consolation or deliverance for the Israelites indicating that at the Seder we look forward to our future deliverance. This Midrash only provides 3 verses, all from Psalms (i.e. 16:5, 23:5, and 116:13) and hence asks, “Where is the fourth reference?” The Midrash answers that verse 116:13, “I will raise the cup of salvations ישועות (i.e. plural) and invoke the name of Hashem” refers to two salvations in the messianic era (viz. the arrival of the messiah and the defeat of the enemies of Israel in the war of Gog and Magog) leading to a total of four references.
The author would like to point out the unique characteristics of these verses of consolation as follows:
- All 3 verses are from Psalms.
- Two verses use the expression my cup.
- One verse is used as two references.
All 3 verses are from Psalms because the book of Psalms is composed of songs primarily themed on deliverance from difficulties and praise to Hashem. King David wrote these Psalms in consideration of the many challenges in his own life from gentile enemies E.g. Philistines), his fellow Israelites (e.g. King Saul and his advisers), and even his sons (e.g. Absalom and Adoniyah). In all of these cases King David prevailed and gave thanks to Hashem after deliverance. In addition to his personal life the message of these Psalms is that the Israelites will be similarly saved from their adversaries especially the 4 kingdoms and is thus a suitable message for the Seder.
The base word my cup (וכוסי or כוסי) only occurs twice in all of scripture (viz. ibid. 16:5 and 23:5, respectively). The connotation of my cup is a unique relationship between the Israelites and
Hashem and therefore the Midrash selected these verses for deliverance.
One verse – two deliverances
In this Midrash for all 6 themes, each verse represents one point except for Psalms 116:13 where the Midrash uses this verse for 2 deliverances. The commentators differ over the meaning of this cup of salvation as follows:
- Actual wine libation in temple (Rashi).
- Actual wine of celebration in a banquet (Redak).
- Portion or lot in life (a cup is a figure of speech) (Redak).
In any event the cup of deliverance refers to the messianic era where the Israelites will rejoice in banquets or in the temple both for deliverance from their enemies and closeness with Hashem led by the messiah.
It is interesting to note that the prophets Isaiah (51:17and 22) and Ezekiel (23:31-33) predict that the tribes of Judah and Benjamin will suffer the same fate as the northern ten tribes (i.e. exile and death) through the metaphor of drinking 4 cups of wine. Isaiah mentions the word “cup” twice in each of the 2 verses cited. By contrast Ezekiel mentions cup once in verses 31 and 32 and twice in verse 33. As a consolation of this suffering, King David in his psalms finds 4 expressions of consolation through the metaphor of cup. In this case the author finds it difficult, without a stretch, to find a reference to the 5th cup.
6 – Decrees of Pharaoh
The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 1:12) mentions the following decrees of Pharaoh:
- Back breaking work (Exodus 1:11-14).
- Killing of the male babies by the midwives (ibid. 1:15-18).
- Throwing the male babies in the Nile (1:22).
- Withholding the straw from the Israelites to make bricks (5:7-9).
The Torah records that Pharaoh was alarmed at the rapid increase in the number of Israelites (Exodus 1:9) and was concerned that the Israelites may join his enemies and overthrow his monarchy (ibid. 1:10). Pharaoh decided to enslave the Israelites to build storage cities (ibid. 1:11) and thereby decrease their numbers through fatigue. When this strategy failed Pharaoh increased the labour to back breaking proportions (ibid. 1:13-14). After this strategy failed, Pharaoh decided a more direct approach of genocide by instructing the Hebrew midwives to kill the male babies of the Israelites (ibid. 15-18). When the midwives refused to comply with Pharaoh’s plans he considered another plan. The Egyptian astrologers told Pharaoh that the saviour of the Israelites was about to be born and would die as a result of water (Talmud Sotah 12b). He therefore instructed the Egyptians to drown the male babies of the Israelites in the Nile (ibid. 1:22). After Moses was placed in the water the sign of the astrologers was neutralized and Pharaoh did not consider other plans. However when Moses asked Pharaoh to send the Israelites away to worship Hashem (ibid. 5:3) he retaliated by withholding the straw to make bricks (ibid. 5:7) but insisted that the Israelites produce the same number of bricks as before (ibid. 5:9).
The author would like to point that one could consider the decree of slavery as two, first conscription (ibid. 1:11) and then back breaking work (ibid. 1:13) leading to a total of 5 decrees. The Midrash combines the two decrees as one type leading to 4 cups of wine at the Seder. However by considering them as two one finds an allusion to the 5th cup.
The author has analyzed 6 reasons for the 4 cups of wine from the Midrash. In 5 of the 6 cases the author has found an allusion to the 5th cup. Based on these sources the practice is for Ashkenazim to pour a cup a 5th cup but not to drink it (Mishna Berurah 480:10). By contrast historically the Sephardim do not have this custom. The reason this cup is called the cup of Elijah is as follows:
- Doubt in Halacha – Since there is a doubt in Halacha of this 5th cup, we pour this cup but do not drink it. It is called the cup of Elijah because in the messianic era Elijah will resolve questions in Halacha (Vilna Gaon).
- Messianic era – Elijah is the harbinger of the Messiah (Malachi 3:23) and we demonstrate our faith in his arrival by pouring this cup (Mishna Berurah 480:10).
- Elijah visits each Seder – Since the Passover offering is reserved for the circumcised (Exodus 12:48), Elijah visits each Passover Seder just as he visits each circumcision.
Secrets of the Torah – סוד
The Zohar (2:40b) comments on the mitzvah of recounting the story of the exodus from the viewpoint of heaven. The Zohar emphasizes that the Israelites should perform this mitzvah with joy (שמחה) and in turn Hashem will “respond with joy” (so to speak) meaning that Hashem will summon the angels to hear His praise from the Israelites. In addition Hashem will reward the Israelites with an encounter of the Shechinah, both in this world and the world to come. Hence the sages instituted the drinking of wine at the Seder to increase joy as the verse says (Psalms 104:15), “Wine gladdens (ישמח) the heart of man.” It is interesting to note that letters of gladden in Hebrew (ישמח) are same as the messiah (משיח) indicating the connection of joy and redemption at the Seder.
This article examined the sources for drinking 4 cups of wine at the Seder and explaining the use of the 5th cup through different sources. The message of the exodus from Egypt, physical and spiritual freedom, has remained with the Israelites from their days in Egypt until the present. The 5th cup is an indication of the messianic era when we will live in peace and harmony in a strong connection with Hashem. As the verses state (Psalms 23:5-6), “You (Hashem) anointed my head with oil and my cup overflows. Let only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life. May I will dwell in the house of Hashem for many days.”