Thursday, January 18, 2007

safeik derabbanan l'kula: 4 cups and haseiba

On Pesach night we drink 4 cups of wine in remembrance of the 4 expressions of geulah, redemption, used in our parsha (Rashbam). These cups must be drunk b’haseiba, while reclining, but there is some ambiguity as to which cups this is required for. The gemara (Pes 108) quotes two versions of a statement of R’ Nachman, one stating that the first 2 cups require haseiba, and one stating that the last 2 cups require haseiba. Since the tradition is unclear, we recline for all 4 cups.

The Ran asks why we do not apply the rule of safeik derabbanan l’kula to this case – when in doubt about a Rabbinic law, one has the right to be lenient, therefore with respect to any of the cups since there is a doubt if haseiba is required at all, we should assume it isn’t. The Ran offers two answers: 1) Since it is not burdensome (tircha) to recline, why not do so if one is able to (based on Rashi); 2) If one is lenient regarding haseiba for both the first and last cups one has completely negated the mitzvah, which cannot be done. Based on either reason, if one inadvertently drank a cup without haseiba one would not have to redrink – in such a case the drinking of extra cups does become a burden, and if one misses haseiba by accident it does not change the ideal halachic requirement of ideally drinking b’haseiba, which was the concern of the second reason.

The Bais HaLevi (III:1:9) notes that many Rishonim (e.g. Tosfos, Rosh) disagree with this conclusion and hold that if one drank without haseiba, one would indeed be required to redrink the cup, whichever one it is. Why do this Rishonim not apply the principle of safeik derabbanan l’kula to this case?


  1. Anonymous12:44 PM

    Your question is misleading. The issue the Ran deals with is why the gemara paskens that leaning is required for all four cups (in light of the klal of safek d’rabonon likula). Regardless of his answer, the gemara did pasken that way, and it’s not a stretch to understand that the obligation is “l’ikuva”.

    This does not have to be a machlokes in understanding the klal of safek d’rabonon likula, rather in understanding the intent of this particular halacha.

  2. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Bill -

    Does the mishneh le-melech in hilchos megilah 1:11 disagree with that analysis? He asks how to resolve the Ran here with his conclusion re: reading the megillah on Shushan Purim in places where it is safek. Looks like he is seeing how to apply the klal of safek derabanan le-kula. I could be off -- it's been a while since I looked at the mishneh le-melech.

  3. >>>Regardless of his answer, the gemara did pasken that way, and it’s not a stretch to understand that the obligation is “l’ikuva”.

    For a fuller explanation of why it is not l'ikuva, see the Bais HaLevi III 1:9 who makes that inference from the Ran.
    What point in the portion I presented do you take issue with? Logically, why assume it is l'ikuva given the Ran's reasoning?

  4. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I too have to look at it again. So much for "michudadin b'ficha"

  5. Anonymous3:20 PM


    The question was phrased as Why do these Rishonim not apply the principle of safeik derabbanan l’kula to this case. I think it's fairer to focus the question as to why the Rishonim disagree, and not to assume that the disagreement is based on the application of the principle of safeik derabbanan l’kula. It can simply be a question of "ikuv". Alternatively, one could focus the question on the "cheirus" aspect of 4 kosos...what the nature of leaning represents vis a vi the act of drinking (i.e. maybe it is “part and parcel” of the shtia). There are many approaches one can take to explain this disagreement.

    As far as your (the B”H’s?) svara as to why one would not have to drink again, you explained: if one misses haseiba by accident it does not change the ideal halachic requirement of ideally drinking b’haseiba I have to ask: Since when do we take this antinomian approach to mitzva performance? If I forgot to daven Mincha one day, don't I have to daven two Maariv's? But I haven't "changed the ideal mitzva of davening Mincha"! Same thing with missing a couple of words during megilla reading…why do it again? I haven’t changed the ideal mitzvah...

    Maybe the Rishonim just disagree with that svara.

  6. >>>It can simply be a question of "ikuv".

    Absolutely! I meant to open the door to suggestions of different approaches, so by all means, explain away....

    As far as the other sevara, you are putting the cart before the horse. By megillah, we know every word is m'akeiv; by mincha we know you have to daven. Here, logically you should NOT have to drink at all b'haseiba because of sfeika derabbanan l'hakeil.

  7. Anonymous7:04 PM


    The ML"M points out a stira in the Ran: In Megilla he says to only read on the 14th, but in Pesachim he explains why the gemara says to drink all 4 cups leaning. The ML"M answers that the nature of the takana/mitzva of leaning is different than that of megilla; by leaning - were we to only choose 2 cups to lean by, it's possible to not be mikayeim the obligation to lean at all (i.e. if we chose poorly). By megilla, however, no matter which day we choose to read on, we will be mikayeim the mitzva.

    So, to address your question, the ML"M is tinkering with the explanations of the Ran - when his analysis of SDL"K applies and when it doesn't - but he is not dealing with the underlying dinim in the gemara.


    B'michilas k'vodcha, you're the one who has it backwards. The gemara says to lean by all four cups. PARENTHESIS - the Ran has a good kasha and a nice teirutz - END PARENTHESIS.

    The gemara is of the opinion that logically you DO have to drink all four cups b'haseiba. How can you qualify the gemara because of the Ran? It's completely counterintuitive!

  8. Let me rephrase the whole question, and hopefully this will make you happy. The Bais HaLevi (ayen sham) infers from Ran/Rashi that haseiba is not l'ikuva. Other Rishonim hold it is. What is the point of machlokes?