We pray that next year the prophecy of the Fifth Cup will be fulfilled – and the entire nation of Israel will be joined together in the Land of Israel.
A well-known feature of the Passover Seder is the “Four Cups of Wine” which we drink at various points during the Seder. Wine was chosen as the focal beverage as it is considered a royal drink – one that symbolizes freedom and celebration. Wine is quite fitting as we celebrate our exodus from the bondage of Egypt and express our newly found freedom as an independent nation.
Each of these four cups represents one of the four expressions used in the bible to describe God’s redemption of the Jews from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-7) 1) “I shall take you out…” 2) “I shall rescue you…” 3) “I shall redeem you…” 4) “I shall take you (to be my people)…”
Some Rabbis say that the four cups represent four different “exiles” in which the majority of Jews dwelled outside of the Land of Israel: The Egyptian exile, the Babylonian exile, the Greek exile and the Roman exile (which is the “current” exile of over 2000 years).
But there is also a Fifth Cup of wine – known as the Cup of Elijah. This is traditionally a very large cup that is poured and left at the center of the table (unlike the others that are smaller and that we drink). The fifth cup represents God’s promise to give the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, as it says in the very next verse (Exodus 6:8) “And I will bring you into the land.”
How lucky are we that our eyes have witnessed the return to Zion and the gathering of the Jewish people to their homeland! The people of Israel are once again being redeemed as the final exile comes to an end. We pray that very soon the redemption will climax with the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the ingathering of every Jew from the four corners of the earth into the Holy Land.
The Silent Prayer (Shemona Esray) recited by Jews three times a day contains the following plea: “Sound the great shofar to signify our freedom; raise the banner for the ingathering of the exiles; gather us together from the four corners of the earth”.
According to tradition, Elijah the prophet visits every single Seder on Passover night, and this fifth cup is left for him to enjoy. We are taught that it is Elijah who will proclaim the arrival of the Messianic Era and the completion of the ingathering of exiles to the Land of Israel.
The highlight of the Seder is singing “Next Year in Jerusalem”. We pray that next year the prophecy of the Fifth Cup will be fulfilled – and the entire nation of Israel will be joined together in the Land of Israel.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin