Posted on January 10, 2013 by Cara Abrams-Simonton
Although this week’s parashah, Va’era, is full of many rich elements of our story as a Jewish people, I am drawn to the four promises that God makes to the Jewish people in chapter 6, verses 6 and 7:
“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel: I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments; and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
Of course parashat Va’era is full of connections with elements of my favorite holiday, Pesach. My non-Jewish father who worked in the fine wine industry in Oregon always connected with the four cups of wine of the Haggadah. I have memories of enjoying a nice bottle of Pinot Noir at our seder meal. Only later in my Jewish learning journey did I come to really understand the connection between the four cups of wine and these two verses in Va’era.
There are many things that the four promises represent in our Pesach story. Each of the four promises in these verses describe a unique stage of redemption of the Jewish people. These promises also mirror Pharaoh’s four evil decrees: slavery, the order to the Hebrew midwives to kill all male children, the drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile, and the decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production. Therefore we drink four cups of wine to celebrate our redemption from Pharaoh’s four evil decrees through God’s four promises. The four cups are also explained as symbols of the Jewish people’s freedom from four exiles: the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and the current exile of the Diaspora.
This week I have been reflecting on the significance of these promises to the Jewish people as well as my own relationship with my father, may his memory be a blessing, and the memories of our experiences with fine wine and our Pesach seders. As I deepen my Jewish learning and grow personally here in Jerusalem, I am mindful of how differently I interacted with the four cups of wine and the four promises back at home in Oregon. Today I am thankful for the new perspectives I have about this element of the seder as a serious student of Tanach. But I will always be aware of the beautiful connections, however basic they may have been, that my family and I have had with wine culture and the Pesach story.