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The clothes off my back

by David Schulman
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

Rashbam, a famous 12th century Torah commentator, writes that if the community cannot find enough money for a poor person to have four cups of wine for the Passover seder, that poor person is obligated to go so far as to sell some of his garments in order to purchase wine to fulfill the mitzvah.

                                                                                                                      

Rashbam, a famous 12th century Torah commentator, writes that if the community cannot find enough money for a poor person to have four cups of wine for the Passover seder, that poor person is obligated to go so far as to sell some of his garments in order to purchase wine to fulfill the mitzvah. What can possibly be so important about drinking four cups of wine at the Passover seder that a poor person should be required to sell some of his garments? A poor person doesn't have to sell his garments to buy himself bitter herbs or matzah!

The four cups of wine allude to the four expressions of redemption that Hashem told Moses to convey to the Jewish people in Egypt: "Therefore say to the Children of Israel: 'I am Hashem, and I shall take you out (v'hotzeiti) from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you (v'heetzalti) from their service; I shall redeem you (v'ga'alti) with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you (v'lakachti) to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem you G-d, who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt" (Exodus 6:6-7). How do these expressions allude to drinking four cups of wine during the Passover seder?

All of these phrases express comfort to the Jewish people that Hashem is all-powerful and He will take care of us. Hashem reveals Himself to Moses to tell him not to worry, I will take the Children of Israel out of Egypt, from the whip of the Egyptians.

When a poor person sells his garments for the four cups of wine, he is saying that he has found comfort in Hashem. Under any circumstance, he will always stay true to G-d. Material things are nothing to him if he can't find comfort in Hashem.

This is a difficult attitude to achieve in our day. Instead of buying sefarim (holy books) or objects specifically for holidays (i.e. lulav, etrog, etc.), we waste our money buying better speakers for our stereos or the latest fashion in brand-name clothes. In the end of days, material things will not bring us comfort with Hashem. Material things become outdated. In contrast, the study of Torah and performance of mitzvot is an eternal process which helps our soul and will ultimately lead to the warmest comfort in Hashem.

David Schulman, a native Atlantan, is a senior at Yeshiva Atlanta.

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