Although Chanukah is approaching, Parashat VaYeishev begins the story of Galut Mitzrayim, which relates to Pesach. The source of Galut Mitzrayim was the brothers’ sale of Yosef and the latter’s consequent ascent in the Egyptian kingdom.
In his commentary to the Haggadah, the Aruch HaShulchan poses a question on the Mah Nishtanah section. In this section, we mention Matzah and Maror as two seemingly strange foods that we are eating as part of the Mitzvot HaLaylah. Why are the Arba Kosot left out? After all, we don’t drink four cups of wine every night. The Aruch HaShulchan offers two possible explanations.
The first explanation is based on the Pasuk, “Kos Yeshuot Esa UVeSheim Hashem Ekra,” “I will raise a glass of victory and call out in the name of Hashem” (Tehillim 116:13). It is no Chiddush (surprising innovation) that we are having wine at the Seder; even non-Jewish people have the custom of making a toast at a happy occasion. If one is saved, he drinks a cup of wine, and if he is saved multiple times, he will have several cups of wine. In this case, the Arba Kosot correspond to the four exiles and the four redemptions the Jews will experience in the course of history (as presented in Sefer Daniel); they are the glass of the victory of our survival. Drinking wine is nothing new, so there is no need to make a comment about it; Matzah and Maror, however, need further explanation.
The second answer offered by the Aruch HaShulchan relates to Parashat VaYeishev. The Pasuk states, “Rachel Mevakah Al Baneha…VeYeish Tikvah LeAchariteich...VeShavu Vanim LiGvulam,” “Rachel is crying for her children …there is hope…and the children will return to their land” (Yirmiyahu 31:14-16). Why do the tears of Rachel bring redemption while the tears of Leah do not? The answer is that Rachel was the opposite cause of the Galut. Rachel was known for her Chessed, going out of the way to help someone else for the sole purpose of helping him, whereas the exiles were caused in part by hatred and discord. Leah was unable to bring the redemption because it was her children who caused the Galut by selling Yosef. Rachel’s children, however, were either victimized by or had nothing to do with the sale. It is for this reason that Rachel is able to bring about the redemption with her tears.
The Aruch HaShulchan then points out that there are two sources in the Chumash for the Arba Kosot: the four Leshonot of redemption (Shemot 6:6-7) and the use of the word ”Kos” four times in the dream of the Sar HaMashkim.
The Aruch HaShulchan proceeds to ask three questions regarding this seemingly bizarre story of Paroh’s two servants who ended up sharing a jail cell with Yosef. Why do the servants receive such disparate punishments? Secondly, why does the Pasuk use the seemingly very harsh description that the servants “sinned?” In addition, isn’t the baker’s eventual punishment a bit too severe?
The Aruch HaShulchan answers that the two servants hated each other and wanted to get each other into trouble. The baker put a fly into Paroh’s cup to get the butler in trouble, and the butler snuck a stone into Paroh’s bread so as to incriminate the baker. Paroh knew that the two servants hated each other, and he knew what they were up to. The baker placed a fly in Paroh’s cup; such disrespect warrants characterization as a “sin.” This also was a much greater offense than putting a stone into the king’s bread, since Paroh might have decided not to eat the bread. As such, his crime warranted the death penalty.
All of the dreams in Sefer Bereishit have to do with the future of the Jewish people. Yosef understood that the dreams’ interpretations were about the Jewish people; just as the Sar HaMashkim and the Sar HaOfim were sent to prison because of their hatred for each other, so too the Jews would end up going into Galut because of discord and hatred. Yosef saw the four Kosot in the butler’s dream and realized that they represented the four exiles the Jews would be sent into for the very sin that had brought the butler to his jail cell. We drink the Arba Kosot at the Seder to remind us of the salvations that Hashem has granted us; however, we do not mention them in the Mah Nishatah because we do not want to remind ourselves of the hatred that caused the exiles.
-Adapted from a Shiur given by Rabbi Ezra Wiener