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Q&A

Why do we remove wine from our cups at "דם ואש ותימרות עשן"?

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During Maggid during the Pesach Seder, there is one point where we say

דם ואש ותימרות עשן

Blood, fire, and columns of smoke
(ArtScroll Machzor translation)

This is a quote from Yoel 3:3.

At this point, we remove some wine / grape juice from our cups, one for each phrase (at least, the Ashkenazim do; I don't know about other customs).

This feels... almost like a joke to me. The first word here is "דם", blood, which is the same as the first plague - which we list a few lines later, removing wine at each mention of the plagues. Removing wine here at the Yoel quote seems like a false start; it starts with "blood", so we'll remove wine like we're listing the plagues... but oops, it's not the plagues!

So why do we actually remove wine here, since I'm fairly confident it's unlikely to be a false start that got ingrained in tradition?

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Although the most well known explanation for the four cups is that they represent the four expressions of redemption, another explanation offered by the sages in JT Pesachim 82b is that they represent the cups of punishment Hashem will give the nations to drink in the Messianic future.

According to the commentary Be'er Miryam, the drops we remove from the cup then depict the allotment of Hashem's punishment on the nations. The ten plagues are just one instance of this.

Although the blood, fire, and smoke in Yoel are not the plagues of Egypt, they nonetheless represent an outpouring of Hashem's wrath on the nations in the Messianic future, and thus are also depicted by the same symbolism.

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