Click Here to Sponsor Daily Halacha
"Delivered to Over 6000 Registered Recipients Each Day"

Download print

The “Intoxication” of the Seder

The Rema Mi’Pano (Rav Menahem Azarya of Fano, Italy, 1548-1620) writes that the verse in Shir Ha’shirim (5:1), "Ichlu Re’im Shetu Ve’shichru Dodim" – "Eat, friends; drink to intoxication, beloved ones" refers to the night of Pesach. We are urged to eat heartily at Shulhan Orech – the meal of the Seder – and then drink the third and fourth cups, which follow the meal. This "intoxication," the Rema Mi’Pano writes, is a "Shichrut She’en Bo Genai" – a type of intoxication which is not discouraged, as intoxication normally is.

How might we explain the "intoxication" that we are encouraged to experience at the Seder?

The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (7b) teaches that Rut, the great-grandmother of King David, was given this name because it is etymologically connected to the verb "Riva," which means "filled" or "drunk," as in the phrase "Kosi Revaya" ("my cup overflows" – Tehillim 23:5). King David, the Gemara explains, "filled" G-d with beautiful praises, and Rut’s name alludes to this quality of her great-grandson. The Gemara here describes King David’s praises of Hashem with a term that is normally used in reference to drinking and intoxication, indicating that there was an "inebriating" quality to David’s praises. A person who is drunk forgets his problems and difficulties, and experiences nothing but blissful joy – and this is what David’s praises expressed. David was able to praise Hashem even under the direst circumstances, even in situations of hardship, and even when experiencing pain. He gave praise to G-d not only in good times, but also in hard times, fully trusting and believing that everything Hashem does is always for the best.

This, then, might be the meaning of the Rema Mi’Pano’s remark. By the time we reach the latter part of the Seder, when we sing joyous songs of praise to Hashem, we are to have arrived at exalted levels of Emuna (faith) whereby we give praise in a state of "intoxication," viewing everything in our lives as positive. The Seder is meant to bring us to a point of faith where we become "drunk" from joy and contentment, where we are no longer troubled and pained by our hardships, and are able to give praise to Hashem irrespective of the situation.

A similar point is made by the Hatam Sofer (Rav Moshe Sofer of Pressburg, 1762-1839) in explaining the seemingly peculiar acrostic of the ten plagues which we mention in the Haggadah. After listing the ten plagues, we note that Rabbi Yehuda would refer to the ten plagues by the acrostic "Desach Adash Be’ahab," which contains the first letters of the names of the plagues. Many have wondered why this point is significant, such that it was deemed worthy of mention at the Seder. Why is it important for us to know that Rabbi Yehuda used a mnemonic to refer to the ten plagues?

The Hatam Sofer explained that in truth, the words "Desach Adash Be’ahab" convey a deeper message. The word "Desach" means "your joy" ("Disa Shelach"), and the word "Adash" means "lentil." The third word, "Be’ahab," can be understood as "Be’ahaba" – "with love." The explanation, the Hatam Sofer said, is that we are able to experience joy even in times of pain and distress – symbolized by lentils, the food traditionally eaten by mourners – if we accept life’s travails with love. The Seder experience is to elevate our level of Emuna to the point where we are capable of embracing life’s hardships through our firm faith that everything Hashem does is good, and even the hardships we experience are actually to our benefit, whether or not we can see how. And thus Rabbi Yehuda taught, "Desach Adash Be’ahab" – that we can feel true joy and happiness even in periods of distress through the special level of faith we reach at the Seder, through the realization that Hashem governs all aspects of our lives and does everything for our benefit, with immense love and compassion. The more we build this belief within our beings, the better able we will be to live happy, content lives no matter what bumps we encounter along the road.

Related Parasha
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees - 2023 Year
Kedoshim- The Reward for Honoring Parents - 2022 Year
Parashat Ahareh Mot- Feeling Hashem’s Presence - 2022 Year
Shevi'i Shel Pesah- Achieving True Freedom - 2022 Year
Pesah: Remembering the Root Cause of the Egyptian Exile - 2022 Year
Parashat Ahare Mot/Kedoshim: Keeping Hashem’s Presence Among Us - 2021 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Complementing One Another - 2020 Year
Parashat Kedoshim- Understanding the Three Years of Orla - 2019 Year
The Hafetz Haim’s Theory of Relativity - 2019 Year
Kedoshim: Kedusha – A Group Effort - 2018 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: The Right Way to Criticize - 2017 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Modern-Day Idolatry - 2016 Year
Parashat Ahareh-Mot: The Impact of Our Actions - 2016 Year
Pesah: G-d’s Promise at the Shores of the Yam Suf - 2016 Year
Pesah- Reward for a Kiddush Hashem - 2016 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Giving Criticism - 2015 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: What Does “Holy” Mean? - 2014 Year
Parashat Ahare Mot- The Lesson of the White and Gold Garments - 2014 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Paying Workers on Time - 2013 Year
Parashat Kedoshim- Parenting and Holiness - 2011 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Pesah - 2011 Year
Parashat Behaalotecha- Rectification is Always Possible
Parashat Naso- Emuna First
Shavuot- Celebrating the Eternal Torah
Shavuot- The Challenge – and Rewards – of Torah Commitment
Parashat Behar- Experiencing the Sweetness and Delight of Torah
Parashat Emor- Keter Shem Tob 'The Crown of Good Reputation'
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees
Parashat Shemini- Respect and Reverence in the Synagogue
Pesah: Redemption Then and Now
Pesah- Its A Mirage
Parashat Vayikra- The Triple Sin of Dishonesty
Parashat Pekudeh- Counting the Things That Matter
Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
Purim and the Sale of Yosef
Parashat Terumah- The Torah’s “Footsteps”
Page of 67
1002 Parashot found