Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Should Women Drink 4 Cups of Wine At the Seder?

First off, this and any other post on parshablog is lehalacha velo` lema'aseh, which means that you should not just read anything discussed here and simply follow it. Rather, ask your local Orthodox rabbi, who will tell you not to follow it. :)

We can start with the explicit statement by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in Bavli Pesachim 108a-b that women must indeed drink 4 cups of wine on the Seder night:
ואמר ר' יהושע בן לוי נשים חייבות בארבעה כוסות הללו שאף הן היו באותו הנס
Women were also part of the miracle, and so they are obligated in these 4 cups.

However, perhaps we might say that the 4 cups are a mechanism for fulfilling an obligation of celebration and happiness for freedom, and there are many paths to achieving this happiness. Let us see the brayta at Pesachim 108b - 109a:

ת"ר הכל חייבין בארבעה כוסות הללו אחד אנשים ואחד נשים ואחד תינוקות
א"ר יהודה וכי מה תועלת יש לתינוקות ביין אלא מחלקין להן קליות ואגוזין בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו
אמרו עליו על רבי עקיבא שהיה מחלק קליות ואגוזין לתינוקות בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו

There is thus a dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda. The Tanna Kamma maintains that everyone is obligated in these 4 cups -- men, women and children. Rabbi Yehuda argues, asking what purpose do children have with wine?

This is strange. If they have an obligation to drink 4 cups, as the Tanna Kamma states, what is meant by "what purpose"? They have the purpose of fulfilling the obligation! Rather, the point seems to be that there are different mechanisms of fulfilling the same purpose. What purpose? Perhaps, of enjoyment (I will attempt to prove this later). (The part that states כדי is problematic, but it seems to give a different reason than the one earlier of "what purpose," and may be a carry-over from later in the sugya.)

An interesting point: Looking in the Rif, there are two important changes here. First, the reason given lacks שלא ישנו, and all that is given is so that they should ask. Secondly, it is Rabbi Tarfon, not Rabbi Akiva, who conducts himself accordingly.

A bit later in the gemara:
ת"ר חייב אדם לשמח בניו ובני ביתו ברגל שנא' (דברים טז) ושמחת בחגך
במה משמחם ביין
רבי יהודה אומר אנשים בראוי להם ונשים בראוי להן
אנשים בראוי להם ביין ונשים במאי תני רב יוסף בבבל בבגדי צבעונין בארץ ישראל בבגדי פשתן מגוהצין

Is this the purpose of the 4 cups of wine? The number 4 may be derived (or given support) from various other pesukim, but perhaps the wine in general on the Seder night is a fulfillment of enjoyment, as it states ושמחת בחגך.

We see here the same dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and the Tanna Kamma. The Tanna Kamma requires wine (for enjoyment) for women, while Rabbi Yehuda states that there is a more appropriate way for women to enjoy themselves. It would seem that Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda are consistent in their opinions. I would say further - not only are they consistent in their opinion in two disparate cases - these two cases are really one, and this is merely a reformulation for Yom Tov in general.

The Yerushalmi should shed some helpful light on this, in that it has a parallel brayta, which is a bit more comprehensive. It is once again in the gemara on the first Mishna stating that everyone -- even the poorest in Israel, must drink 4 cups. The Yerushalmi does not bring the first brayta about even women and children being obligated to drink, with Rabbi Yehuda objecting (at least in the case of children). Rather, the brayta reads as follows:

תני צריך הוא אדם לשמח את אשתו ואת בניו ברגל במה משמחן ביין.
רבי יודה אומר נשים בראוי להן וקטנים בראוי להם
נשים בראוי להן כגון מסנים וצוצלין
וקטנים בראוי להן כגון אגוזין ולוזין.
אמרין הוה רבי טרפון עביד כן.
And then the gemara begins bringing derivations for specifically four as the number of cups:
מניין לארבעה כוסות רבי יוחנן בשם ר' ר' בנייה כנגד ארבע גאולות

Thus, we have the brayta about men, women and children fulfilling their obligation of happiness, though with slightly different wording (e.g. tzarich vs. chayyav). And in Yerushalmi, Rabbi Yehuda leaves the men's fulfillment implicit, agreeing with Tanna Kamma, and brings a parallel mechanism for women to fulfill.

What is new here is that an alternative for children is given, and it is the same alternative Rabbi Yehuda gives for the 4 cups in the first brayta in Bavli - egozim and luzim are basically equal to egozim and kelayot. Furthermore, the continuation of אמרין הוה רבי טרפון עביד כן is parallel to the first brayta about the 4 cups, especially once we correct our Bavli to accord with that of the Rif, such that we emend Rabbi Akiva to be Rabbi Tarfon. Note also that the reasoning of kedei which I noted above seems to be a carryover from later is missing from the Yerushalmi. (Thus, a statement about Rabbi Tarfon as regards 4 cups in Bavli parallels a statement about Rabbi Tarfon about wine in general for joy of Yom Tov in Yerushalmi.)

Thus, the 4 cups would seem to be a fulfillment of enjoyment of the Yom Tov in order to celebrate the miracle, and the dispute between Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda is consistent, if not absolutely identical.

Indeed, we might read this into Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira in Bavli:
תניא רבי יהודה בן בתירא אומר בזמן שבית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא בבשר שנאמר (דברים כז) וזבחת שלמים ואכלת שם ושמחת לפני ה' אלהיך ועכשיו שאין בית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא ביין שנאמר (תהילים קד) ויין ישמח לבב אנוש

Many women today do not enjoy 4 cups of wine, and perhaps this is not the proper way of fulfilling this mitzvah. Rather, there might be parallel ways to fulfill the commandment, and each select group of people should perform it in a specific way, as specified in the gemara.

Do we rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda or with the Tanna Kamma? It seems that we rule like Rabbi Yehuda. Indeed, the Tur states that for children, it is a good thing (=tov) to give them wine (because of chinuch) and it is a commandment (mitzvah) to put before them egozim and kelayot so that they will not sleep and will ask questions. Thus, he rules like Rabbi Yehuda in the first brayta in Bavli.

Of course, Tur does not rule like Rabbi Yehuda in regard to women as an alternate method of fulfilling the specific obligation of 4 cups, but then, he does not read the two braytas as discussing the same case, and would not hold that Rabbi Yehuda would hold this as regard to the four cups.

Furthermore, perhaps one can take the Bavli's omission of a statement by Rabbi Yehuda regarding women in the first brayta as a decision that this would not be the case. And furthermore, one can argue quite strongly that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is brought to definitively state that women are obligated in the 4 cups, and not just in the general obligation that can be fulfilled in various ways, but in this specific way of drinking 4 cups of wine.

There are of course other ways of understanding these gemaras, and various theories that describe the system, but I think there is something to this understanding I have put forth, given the parallelisms between these various braytas.

Of course, do not act on this theoretical discussion.

(Update: Another possible approach, which perhaps glosses over some of the eerie similarities in language and cases: There are two laws at issue - the four cups of wine and simchat Yom Tov. According to the Tanna Kamma, all are obligated in the 4 cups, men, women and children. Rabbi Yehuda sees no benefit for children here, since the better chinuch would be to keep them up for the seder, or perhaps he is even talking about children who have not yet reached the age of chinuch. According to the Tanna Kamma, the requirement of enjoyment of the Yom Tov is fulfilled via wine for everyone, and so this is automatically taken care of because all are drinking wine for the four cups. Rabbi Yehuda in Bavli states that women do not get this joy of Yom Tov for wine, so must additionally receive shoes or clothes. In Yerushalmi, he says the same, adding that the same egozim etc. that children are to receive to keep them up and asking questions as participants in the seder also gives these children joy of Yom Tov, such that the head of the household fulfills his obligation automatically in this way, just as he does by giving the adult male members of his household wine.

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