Supplementary Seder Readings

Remembering the oppressed--and others in need--at the seder

Print this page Print this page

Fifth Cup: In Memory of the Six Million

This reading shows the affect that the Holocaust has had on modern Jewry. The four cups of wine drunk at the seder symbolize different levels of redemption. The Holocaust may be viewed as the absence of redemption. This reading not only focuses on the most traumatic event in modern Jewish history, it places the event within the context of redemption. It is significant that this piece is to be read in association with Elijah the prophet, who is to herald the coming of the messiah. (To be recited after opening the door for Elijah.)

On this night of the seder we remember with reverence and love the six million of our people of the European exile who perished at the hand of a tyrant more wicked that Pharaoh who enslaved our fathers in Egypt. Come, said he to his minions, let us cut them off from being a people, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more. And they slew the blameless and pure, men and women and little ones, with vapors of poison and burned them with fire. But we abstain from dwelling the deeds of evil ones lest we defame the image of God in which man was created.

Now, the remnants of our people who were left in the ghettos and camps of annihilation rose up against the wicked ones for the sanctification of the Name and slew many of them before they died. On the first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto for Warsaw rose up against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided. They brought redemption to the name of Israel throughout all the world. And from the depths of their affliction, the martyrs lifted their voices in a song of faith in the coming of the Messiah, when justice and brotherhood will reign among men.

"Ani ma-amin be-emuna sh'layma b'viat ha-mashiach;

V'afal pee she-yit-may-mayah im kol ze ani ma-amin."

(I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah;

and, though he tarry, nonetheless I believe.")

The Fifth Cup: In Thankfulness for Israel

This additional cup of wine also ties in with the four cups of redemption. Here, the creation of the state Israel is viewed as fulfilling God's promise of redemption. (To be recited after drinking the fourth cup of wine at the conclusion of the seder.)

We read in the Talmud: These four cups correspond to the four expressions of redemption that the Torah uses in relating the events of Egypt: Vehotzeti, and I shall bring forth; Vehitzalti, and I shall save; Vegaalti, and I shall redeem; Valakahti, and I shall take. Rabbi Tarphon would add a fifth cup to correspond to Veheveti, and I shall bring.

And now, in our own time, when we have been privileged to behold the mercies of the Holy One, blessed is He and His salvation over us, in the establishment of the State of Israel, which is the beginning of redemption and salvation, as it is written, "And I shall bring you into the land which I swore to give unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob and I have given it unto you as an inheritance, I am the Lord! it is fitting and proper that we observe this pious act, the drinking of the fifth cup as a form of thanksgiving.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.