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Like Mother, Like Son

With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand

The food and drink that implant emunah

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


he table is bedecked in white, the silver gleams, and the maroon wine glistens in the becher. As the night progresses, we drink four cups of wine and eat three matzos.

Four and three… three and four… What else do we have three and four of? At the very end of the Seder, those who are still awake will find out when they sing, “Who Knows One?” which enumerates the treasures of Judaism associated with each number. “Who knows three? Three are the Avos! Who knows four? Four are the Imahos!”


Eat Emunah, Drink Emunah

Pesach night is like no other. Hashem dedicated this night for demonstrating His Omnipotence when He extracted one nation from within another. Hashem struck all Egyptian firstborns at midnight and Pharaoh ran through the streets announcing that the Jews were free to leave.

The night when Hashem demonstrated His power is the ideal time for planting emunah within ourselves and our children. We do this by talking about Yetzias Mitzrayim and by eating the foods of the Seder. On the first night of Pesach (and on the second night as well, in chutz l’Aretz), Hashem implants a power of emunah into the three matzos and the four cups of wine. The Zohar (Part 2, 183) refers to matzah as michla dimheimnusa, a food of emunah, and the four cups of wine are based on the four promises of redemption, so when we consume the matzah and wine, we are imbibing knowledge of Hashem and fortifying the emunah of our neshamos. The food we eat becomes part of both our body and soul. In truth, the entire night of Pesach is one long stretch of infusing ourselves with emunah. Even the food eaten at Shulchan Oreich has a different status than a regular Yom Tov meal, as we see from the halachah that it is preferable to eat it while leaning.

The fact that there are as many matzos as there are Avos and as many cups of wine as there are Imahos is not coincidental. As we’ve learned earlier in this series, the three Avos and four Imahos embedded emunah into our genetic makeup. The food and drink that implant emunah in us correspond to the Avos and Imahos.


Of Logic and Emotion

We need two forms of emunah provisions because there are two kinds of emunah; the logical emunah provided by the matzos, and the emotional emunah provided by the four cups of wine.

Suppose a ravenously hungry person bites into a piece of bread. The infusion of balanced carbohydrates and protein from the grain food will provide his brain with fuel and the fog will lift as he begins thinking clearly. When a person drinks wine, however, his thoughts become muddled and confused. Yet another of his faculties, one that is as important, if not more important, than the ability to think, becomes stronger: the ability to experience emotion. Wine may weaken the mind, but it strengthens the heart.

Both the father and the mother transmit emunah to their children, but each gives over a different kind of emunah. Generally, it is the father’s role to teach his children how to think logically. The father teaches Torah to the child so that he will understand that it is true. The mother doesn’t explain the existence of Hashem using logical proofs, but transmits it intuitively and emotionally.

We need both of these kinds of emunah. Therefore, on the night of the Seder we drink four cups of wine corresponding to the four Imahos, in order to absorb emotional emunah, and we eat three matzos corresponding to the Avos, in order to infuse ourselves with the ability to logically understand the principles of emunah.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 638)

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