The Rabbi mentioned in his lecture tonight that we are expected to rejoice at the downfall of the wicked and that we celebrate the punishment of the Mitzrim. If that’s really true, then why do we take drops of wine out of the cup of wine at the Seder?
This gentleman is asking, why is the cup of wine diminished by drops at the Seder? Which means that this person has heard that the significance of the drops that we remove from our cup at the Seder is that the suffering of the wicked is a diminishing of our own happiness.
Now, I want to tell you people something that will come in handy. There are many explanations that have been invented to suit the modern taste. But at this table (the Rav zatzal banged on the table) the principle is that we’re suiting nobody’s taste except the truth.
Now, I understand that if I had to speak someplace else I couldn’t speak on this subject. And that’s because the spirit of the gentile world is not to exalt in vengeance. Oh no! They only exalt in killing Jews, and in gas chambers and crematoria. They wouldn’t think of such a wicked thing as vengeance. The Pope and the bishops of the Anglican Church are very much interested only in the nobler aspects of life. And so when the Jews were being shipped off to the death camps and being burned at the rate of twenty-thousand a day, so the Pope was busy talking about peace and brotherhood and the love of all man. And the archbishop of the church of England was busy talking about brotherhood and friendship. All the time, words of love were gushing forth from these two fountains of saintliness. But never did one of them speak up that it’s time to stop murdering Jews. Maybe instead of twenty-thousand Jews a day, maybe they should kill only ten thousand Jews a day?! No, this they didn’t even try. Twenty-thousand, that’s fine. It’s good enough. It’s not thirty-thousand, they said. What do you want already?
And so, nobody intervened for the Jews. But at the same time they would disdain to say such wicked words like I’m saying here tonight; about rejoicing in the downfall of would-be murderers and such terrible oppressors as the Egyptians were. To rejoice in their downfall is a righteous thing?! Oh no; that, they would never say!
So the modern rabbis who are paid by the Sisterhood are busy reinterpreting the Torah in a way that is acceptable to them. And therefore, after a while it becomes widespread in the Jewish street that this is a Torah attitude – that you take out drops of wine in order to signify that our happiness is diminished because of the suffering of the wicked.
And I want to tell you, even if you saw it in a chassidishe sefer, don’t be excited. I can tell you that not everything that is printed, even in lashon kodeshdika seforim, deserves to be read. And even some seforim that are three-hundred and four-hundred years old.
You have to use discretion in what you read. Drush has been in force for at least three-hundred years, so don’t be excited even if you saw this in a sefer. It’s absolutely not true! That’s not the significance of this minhag.
And if you want – now, I’m just telling you a guess of mine, but if you want a more true significance, I’ll tell you that we’re shedding the blood of the Egyptians when we drip the drops from the cup; we’re taking part because we’re happy על דם רשעים שנשפך, about the blood of the wicked that has been spilled. That’s a different explanation, a better explanation.
Now, of course, if I was out in Westchester or in Scarsdale, and I was giving a pre-Pesach class to the Ladies’ Auxiliary, I would speak about something else. So, it may be that you saw this in some good sefer, but I’m not impressed anyhow. You have to know that not everything printed is worth repeating.
TAPE # 26 (April 1974)
Editor’s Note: Although this reason of “our diminishing joy due to the suffering of the Mitzrim” is widely quoted in many hagadahs today (and sometimes even wrongly attributed to the Abarbanel) it is actually a quite recent explanation that was first invented in the late 1800’s and then recorded in print for the first time by Eduard Baneth in 1904. This reason was then popularized among the masses when it was quoted in haggadahs that were printed in America in the 1940’s and 50’s. For example in a popular haggadah published in 1943 by the National Jewish Welfare Board “for members of the armed forces of the United States to address the compatibility of Jewish and American values” this is the reason given for the minhag.
The earliest reference to the minhag itself is actually found in the Pesach Drashos of the Rokeach (c. 1176-1238) and his mystical explanation of the sixteen drops of wine seems to be more in line with Rav Miller’s words above, in that it hints to the “sixteen sides sword of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.” The Sefer Maharil quotes the Rokeach and explains that we want the vengeance of Hashem “to fall upon our enemies.” The Darkei Moshe quotes the Maharil and writes that the minhag hints to the “angel in charge of vengeance.”