Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Judaism Explanations for Four Cups of Wine at Passover Seder Share Flipboard Email Print photovs/Getty Images Judaism Important Holidays Basics Culture Prayers and Worship By Chaviva Gordon-Bennett Judaism Expert M.A., Judaic Studies, University of Connecticut B.J., Journalism and News Editorial, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chaviva Gordon-Bennett holds an M.A. in Judaic Studies. She has written about Judaism for outlets such as Huffington Post and MazelTogether.org. our editorial process Chaviva Gordon-Bennett Updated June 25, 2019 At the Passover seder, Jews usually drink four cups of wine while leaning to the left, according to the Haggadah service, but the reason why is elusive to many. Considered a royal drink, wine symbolizes freedom, which is what the Passover seder and Haggadah celebrate. Possible Explanations In Genesis 40:11-13, when Joseph interprets the dream of the butler, the butler mentions the word "cup" four times. The Midrash suggests that these cups alluded to the liberation of the Israelites from Pharaoh's rule. Then there is God's promise to take the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery in Exodus 6:6-8, in which there were four terms used to describe the redemption: I shall take you out ...I shall rescue you ...I shall redeem you ... I shall bring you ... There are four evil decrees by Pharaoh that the Israelites were liberated from, including: SlaveryThe murder of all newborn malesThe drowning of all Israelite boys in the Nile The order for the Israelites to collect their own straw to make bricks Another opinion cites the four exiles that the Israelites suffered and the freedom that was (or will be) granted from each, including: The Egyptian exileThe Babylonian exileThe Greek exileThe current exile and the coming of the Messiah There's a reason provided, also, that in the Haggadah Jews read about the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, and Jacob's son Yosef, but the matriarchs do not appear in the narrative. This view suggests that because of this, each cup of wine represents one of the matriarchs: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. The Cup of Elijah is the fifth cup that appears at the seder.