Sunday, April 12, 2009

Who Drinks the Four Cups?


Rabbi Sokol gave a d’var torah comparing the Tosafot and the Rambam on who drinks the Four Cups at the seder. Tosafot, on Pesachim 98b (s.v. Lo yiftechu lo me’arba kosot), tells us that it should suffice for the leader of the seder to drink the Four Cups, just as we do in other situations. But it’s a good idea to be machmir, and have everyone, men & women, drink the Four Cups. The Rambam, meanwhile, requires all adults to drink, men and women.

He then brought in R’ Chaim Brisker, who tries to resolve the apparent contradiction by positing that Rambam saw a separate din, law, category, relating to the Four Cups. The Four Cups are thus treated differently than other Cups on Which We Bless (kos shel bracha), and everyone has to drink from them.

I mused to the Rabbi, afterwards, “what would R’ Marc Shapiro say?” R Shapiro asks how much of Reb Chaim’s ideas are really what the Rambam was thinking, and how much is really Reb Chaim’s highly creative thinking about the Rambam and the law. The Rabbi thought that Reb Chaim’s explanation seemed very close to the text. But I still wondered.

I reviewed the sections of the Bavli and the Yerushalmi that discuss the obligation to drink four cups at the Seder. It turns out that there is a key statement in the Bavli that is missing in the Yerushalmi:

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says that women are obligated in the Four Cups because they too were included in the miracle.

I also looked into the Rosh, the famous Ashkenazic posek. He believes that it is possible for one person to do all the drinking, and others fulfill their obligation through him, although the sense of the Gemara for him is that everyone should drink, and he too recommends it. The baraita he cites is also present in the Yerushalmi.

The Rosh spells out his reason why he believes that it is OK for one person to do all the drinking vicariously, which Tosafot leaves implicit, by carefully examining the language of the Mishnah. The Mishnah says repeatedly, "they mix for him the first/second/third/fourth cup". Note the subject and object: THEY (the assembled company) mix for HIM (the leader of the ceremony). So even ab initio, one person can (and probably did, in Mishnaic times) do all the drinking.

So there are two statements: the above in the name of R' Yehoshua b. Levi, which is only in the Bavli, and a baraita present in both, in markedly different versions:

Bavli (108b-109a): Our rabbis taught: All are obligated in these four cups, men women and children. Rabbi Judah says, what use is it giving children wine? Rather, give them nuts and pins to play with so that they don't fall asleep and they ask questions.

Yerushalmi (68b): It was taught: A man must make his wife and children happy on the holiday. What what does he make them happy? With wine. Rabbi Judah says, women with what they like and children with what they like - women with new clothes and shoes, children with nuts and pins.

So again, we have the Bavli requiring women to drink, if not children, while the Yerushalmi tells us that drinking does not make women happy, rather, buying them new clothes and shoes. And that wine vs clothes/toys is an issue in rejoicing on the holiday, rather than in the issue of drinking Four Cups. Both, of course, are built on the Mishnah. The Bavli reads the Mishnah in context of baraitot (sources contemporary with, but left out of, the Mishnah) that include women in the drinking, while the Yerushalmi does not read through the filter of those baraitot, and is left with the plain sense of the Mishnah, where only one person drinks.

* * *

So it seems likely to me that this is the reality:

The Bavli requires women to drink the Four Cups. The Rambam, as is his usual method, reports the Bavli’s ruling as law. The absence of these statements from the Yerushalmi seems to indicate that there is no actual requirement for women to drink the Four Cups in the ancient customs of the Land of Israel. Since those customs are the ancestors of the customs practiced in Northern Europe (Minhag Ashkenaz), there may not have been such a custom for those other than the leader (be the leader man or woman) to drink Four Cups at the Seder. And thus we don't need to posit that the Rambam was making an exception in the rules of drinking.

How can we verify this? By, among other things, looking at pictures. The Haggadah as a text lends itself to illustration. As a pedagogical tool of the nation’s central founding story, it strives to educate young and old, literate and illiterate. Many manuscript and printed haggadot are accompanied by pictures – of steps in the narrative, of steps in the Seder, the visual pun of the Rabbit Hunt*, and pictures of the seder ceremony, presumably reflecting the way it was done in the locations where the artists and publishers lived and worked.

Let’s look at some pictures, shall we?

Click on each picture for a larger version.

First, from France in the late 13th century [TMM], a small family holds its seder:



The two left-most figures at the table appear to be women – they may have breasts, and are wearing caps. The man and the boy, by contrast, are not wearing anything on their heads. This seems surprising in the modern context, but in 13th-century France, apparently men did not regularly wear headcoverings even to pray (Or Zarua ii.43). R’ Avraham of Lunel (Raavan) in Sefer ha-Manhig, notes that in Spain, men wear headcoverings to pray, which implies that in Lunel (France), they did not. Raavan, Tosafot, Rambam and the Rosh are all near-contemporaries, in the 12th century.

Most significantly for our issue, though, only the father is holding a wine goblet, while the mother is not, nor are the children.

Meanwhile, in Aragon at the same period,



the left being from the Sarajevo Haggadah, we see several people with wine goblets, women as well as men. In the right-hand picture, although it’s muddy, we can see similarly, the left side being the dining room and the right side the kitchen – several people each with their own goblet, Spaniards (Sephardim) following the Rambam. In fact, the Sarajevo Haggdah picture is captioned, “Everyone drinks their cup, and makes the Seder as is written.”

In a German manuscript painting from the 1460s [TMM], however, we see the Tosafot’s recommendation taken to heart.



The father is holding a wine fountain, apparently, for later distribution to the other adults at the table, each of whom has their own cup, or becher, rather than a goblet. Everyone at the table has some kind of head covering.

In Northern Italy in the same period [TMM],



we also see every adult drinking from their own glass. Interesting that they are using glasses (we can see them partially filled with wine), and a glass decanter, rather than metal goblets as in the previous picture – perhaps these are Venetians? Venice has been a famous center of glassblowing since at least the 13th century.

Now we come to the printed haggadot. And here we see more variation in practice, at least through the 16th century.



The first illustrated haggadah [YHY], possibly from pre-Exilic Spain or Portugal, or slightly after the Exile, reflects the continuing Spanish custom where everybody drinks.

Meanwhile, in Prague [DG],



in one of the sixty famous woodcuts from the Prague haggadah of 1526, we see a young couple, their son, and two old men. The younger man is holding the cup, clearly leading the service. Mrs. B__ wife guesses that it must be a young family and the two fathers-in-law. So here is a living example of the Tosafot’s opinion that it suffices for one man to drink at the Seder – neither his wife nor the older men are drinking.

Not far away, in Augsburg in 1534 [DG],



we have a similar family seder scene. Here, there are two men, two women and two children, apparently about to eat the Karpas (the left-most man is holding a bunch of plants). And there are only two bechers on the table. Apparently this family follows the custom of the Yerushalmi, where only men drink the wine. Or perhaps only the leader, the bearded figure on the left, is drinking, while the other cup is for Elijah or for the salt-water.

(Update: Mrs. B__ notes that they're probably not eating Karpas, as the caption in one of the books had it, but reading Maror, al shum mah in the passage where Rabban Gamliel requires us to explain the significance of Pesach Matzah and Maror. After all, just as it says in modern haggadot, they're all pointing at the plant. There's a woodcut for Maror in the Prague haggadah of 1526 that has someone holding a big plant and pointing to it.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have ready access to Ashkenazic haggadah pictures from the intervening centuries; the famous Venice tri-lingual haggadot (three versions, translated into Yiddish, Ladio and Judeo-Italian) of 1609 and 1629, much imitated, use the same pictures for Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as far as I can tell, where all drink. Perhaps this in itself was a unifying influence, bringing everyone to follow the Bavli's ruling?

By the late 18th century, we see an Offenbach family group [1795] [YHY]



where father, mother, and one of the four sons are drinking. The Bavli’s ruling has become more widespread. The Rosenthaliana-Leipnik manuscript haggadah of 1738, done by the German artist Joseph b. David, similarly illustrates the Kadesh Urechatz with pictures where everybody drinks. So too the 1712 Amsterdam haggadah, with pictures slightly redrawn from the Venice 1629 haggadot - in both cases, all drink.

* * *

I’d say this demonstrates the plausibility of our hypothesis – that Spain, following the Bavli and its codifier the Rambam, had every adult drink the Four Cups. Meanwhile, in Ashkenaz, where the custom reflected ancient Israel’s custom (before Saladin drove out the ancient Jewish community in the early 13th century), we see a variety of customs, which accords well with our Tosafot: some have everybody drink, some have only the men drink, some have only the leader drink. But by the 18th century, even in Germany, everybody drinks.

I might further speculate that this relates to the introduction of the Shulchan Aruch. Before the Shulchan Aruch, there was no real code for Ashkenazim. But with the Shulchan Aruch in the early 1500s, and especially with the Rema’s Ashkenazic glosses introduced c.1578, its rulings became the way of life for all of Jewry. And in Orach Chaim 472:14, the Shulchan Aruch obligates women in the Four Cups, and the Rema does not disagree. Thereafter, then, that would have become the normative ruling for Ashkenazim, rather than the recommendation of some Rishonim.

A note on sources. I copied the pictures of old haggadot from various sources, noted above in the text:

[TMM] – Therese & Mendel Metzger, “Jewish Life in the Middle Ages.”

[YHY] – Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “Haggadah and History.”

[DG] – Daniel Goldschmidt’s historical haggadah.

* Rabbit hunt: the Talmudic mnemonic for remembering the proper order of blessings when a holiday falls on Saturday night is Yakneha"z [Yayin Kidush Ner Havdalah Zman, or WineKiddush Flame Separation Time], which sounds like the German Jag-den-has, or "hunt the hare." Since the Jews have so often been on the run, a picture of a rabbit-hunt often adorned haggadot and other Jewish prayerbooks in the Renaissance.

5 comments:

Joe in Australia said...

The marror looks interesting. It's probably meant to be what we call Romaine or Cos lettuce, but it looks more pointed than our variety.

thanbo said...

The Maror woodcut in the Prague haggadah is similar, come to think of it.

See here for a picture (you may have to scroll down).

Joe in Australia said...

Similar, but it has a lot more stem than our varieties do - unless it's "gone to seed", which is surely unlikely by Pesach time. I wonder whether there's a picture of lettuce in a "herbal" from the period?

Lipman said...

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says that women are obligated in the Four Cups because they too were included in the miracle.

Our rabbis taught: All are obligated in these four cups, men women and children.
But 'obligated' doesn't mean they can't be yôtze through the leader, does it? It just means they have to be included in his and their minds, and that they might in fact be able to lead themselves.

thanbo said...

I see no reason why a woman couldn't lead, esp. under the Bavli's rule that wine is shayach for women. What if the father is gone and the mother is running the house? Widowed, or in medinas hayam, or whatever.

At my parents house, it's certainly a cooperative endeavor, with Mom doing most of the leading & directing: "SYDNEY! TIME TO MAKE THE HILLEL SANDWICHES! NO, NO, TAKE THE MATZA FROM THERE!" With Dad's poor hearing, it's a bit hard for him to monitor the goings-on.