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Thought for the Day: Bracha on Each of Four Cups at Seder Because Each is a Separate Mitzvah

My older grandchildren in Chicago are just getting to the age of learning to say brachos.  Their enthusiasm is inspiring.  Of course, being, six-ish, she can be a bit (a bit, you say?) over exuberant.  The other night, she washed for bread, took a new kind of roll, made a beautiful bracha, took one little nibble (I mean, barely scratched the surface), made a face, and gave it to her brother (who is somewhat less discerning in the bread department).  Some time later, I saw her carefully bentching.  I told her she hadn't eaten enough to bentch, so she asked me what she should say instead. I told her that she didn't have to say anything, and you said, "But I ate!  I must have to make some bracha!"  Such enthusiasm!

Many of us lose our enthusiasm at the seder table... "That much matzah!?!"  "That much maror!?!"  "That whole glass of wine?!?"  (Boys, of course, typically don't say that from the age of about 14 till they finally get tired of getting sick each year; usually before mid-90s, but it can go longer.)  We eat so much, of course, because the Torah requires that we eat (not just taste) matzah, maror, and wine (ok, drink; picky, picky).  Given that we have eaten enough, of course, we will also be required to bentch afterwards.  Interestingly, we do not want to eat such a quantity of parsley/potato that would require bentching afterward, because we want the בורא פרי האדמה to cover the maror as well.  We do that because we are nervous about making an extra בורא פרי האדמה on the maror, because maybe we are only eating it for the mitzvah.

Whoa, there!  But on the four cups of wine we specifically make a new בורא פרי הגפן because each cup is its own mitzvah.  Moreover, we specifically do not bentch after each cup, but only at the end.  What's going on?

First let's ask, "What's wrong with making more brachos, anyway?"  Suppose, for example, that I feel really spiritual today and want to praise HaShem a lot.  Why can't I take a whole handful of peanuts, eat them one at at time, and make a new בורא פרי האדמה each time?  You'll say, "You call yourself a rabbi?!  THOSE EXTRA BRACHOS WOULD EACH BE A BRACHA L'VATALA!"  I'll answer, "First, I don't call myself a rabbi; R' Fuerst did.  Second: That is precisely my question; why would each bracha be a bracha l'vatala?  I am just praising HaShem each time creating this peanut."

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tzl (Minchas Shlomo, Vol 1, Article 18) explains the problem and then uses that to explain why I do make a bracha on each cup at the seder.  The problem is in the attitude of,  "I feel spiritual today, so I'll make a lot of brachos."  So one day I'll make a lot of brachos, but another day I'll make only one.  Someone watching (like those little grandchildren) will say to themselves, "Oh!  I guess you make brachos when you want to, but don't need to."  Your stringency leads to rampant leniencies.  Therefore Chazal were very particular in when you can make a bracha.

Ah... since Chazal are so particular, when they specifically mandate a new bracha for each cup, it will stand out.  The Pesach sefer experience becomes all the more special.  It also gets the children to ask more questions... which is really what they seder is all about.


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