35.Hallel, the Great Hallel, and the Concluding Berakha
After Birkat Ha-mazon, we drink the third cup of wine and then pour the fourth cup, over which we recite Hallel and "the Great" Hallel ("Hallel Ha-gadol"). Before Hallel we recite the paragraph "Shefokh Ĥamatkha" ("Pour Your Wrath"). Some customarily open the door at this point to demonstrate that, on this night, we are protected against destructive forces and not afraid of our enemies. By virtue of this faith, the Mashi’aĥ (Messiah) will come and pour out his wrath upon the wicked enemies of Israel (Rema 480:1). Some have a custom to stand while reciting Shefokh Ĥamatkha (AHS ad loc., and this was the practice of Rav Kook). After reciting Shefokh Ĥamatkha, we close the door.
We then continue with the second part of Hallel (see above, section 20). There is a mitzva to recite verses 1-4 and 24-25 of Tehilim 118 responsively, led by the eldest member of the household. There is a mitzva to ensure that three adults are present in order to recite the verses in this manner, with one leader and multiple respondents (Rema 479:1). This is all le-khatĥila; of course, an individual fulfills the mitzva even by reciting Hallel alone. If only two people are present, they should recite the verses together (MB 479:10-11).
After this, we recite the Great Hallel (chapter 136 of Tehilim) followed by Nishmat Kol Ĥai ("The Soul of All Life") and the concluding berakha. There are different opinions regarding the formula of the concluding berakha: Sephardim close with the paragraph "Yehallelukha," which concludes the normal recitation of Hallel. Ashkenazim close with "Yishtabaĥ," which concludes the psalms of praise recited at Shaĥarit (see section 31 above, where we learned that it is better to complete this berakha by midnight). Following this, we sing various songs composed in the period of the Rishonim.
Logic dictates that the fourth cup should be drunk right after the concluding berakha of Hallel, which also concludes the Seder that was instituted by the Sages in the times of the Mishna. The songs and poems that follow are merely a custom. Nevertheless, some drink the fourth cup after singing a few of these additional songs, so that they too are sung over a cup of wine and are thus included in the Seder (see MB 480:6). Each family should continue its own tradition.
The Sephardic custom is not to recite "ha-gefen" before the fourth cup, whereas the Ashkenazic custom is to recite it (see section 21 above). After the fourth cup, the berakha aĥarona of "Al Ha-gefen" is said. 36.The Fifth Cup – Eliyahu’s Cup
A significant halakhic uncertainty arose concerning the fifth cup. Some say that there is an extra special mitzva to drink a fifth cup; the fourth cup should be drunk at the end of the Hallel and the fifth cup after the concluding berakha. Others say that the fifth cup is merely the Sages’ recommendation for one who wishes to continue drinking after the fourth cup. Still others say it is forbidden to drink a fifth cup. 32
The customary practice is not to drink a fifth cup, though we do pour one, called Eliyahu’s Cup. The Vilna Gaon explains how it got this name: when there is an uncertainty that cannot be resolved, we believe that when the prophet Eliyahu returns as a harbinger of the messianic era, he will resolve it. Thus, we pour a fifth cup in his honor, and when he arrives he will tell us if we should drink it.
We can interpret this issue in a deeper way as well. The Sages instituted the four cups to signify the four expressions of redemption used in reference to the Exodus from Egypt: "I will rescue you… I will save you… I will redeem you… I will take you…" (Shemot 6:6-7). An additional expression of redemption is mentioned there: " I will bring you
to the land" (ibid. 8). However, since this does not relate to the Exodus itself, the Sages do not obligate us to drink a corresponding fifth cup. They tell us, however, that there is a mitzva to drink a fifth cup in order to allude to the complete redemption, which begins with our entry into Eretz Yisrael.
It could also be that the uncertainty about the fifth cup stems from the question as to whether it is proper to drink a fifth cup after the destruction of the Temple and during the long exile. Perhaps after the Temple’s destruction we can only celebrate with those cups that allude to our Exodus from the Egyptian bondage, since this will forever distinguish us. Even if the nations of the world subjugate our bodies, our souls remain eternally free; ever since the Exodus, it has been clear that we are God’s uniquely chosen people, that we received the Torah, and that all the hardships that have come upon us have not broken our faith in God, our Redeemer. Therefore, we drink four cups of wine corresponding to the four expressions of redemption from Egypt. The fifth cup, though, does not correspond to our emancipation alone; rather, it alludes to the complete redemption, which depends on our entry into Eretz Yisrael, where the word of God is revealed in all spheres of life, through the Torah and prophecy, and through God’s blessing, which inheres in the building of the nation and the land. This notion of the Temple is that it joins heaven and earth and reveals the divine unity that nourishes everything. Indeed, the number five alludes to the inner, unifying point at the center of the four compass directions. And so perhaps at the source of the uncertainty about the fifth cup lies the question: is it fitting, in light of the Temple’s destruction, to drink the fifth cup, which alludes to the complete redemption?
The solution is to pour a fifth cup but not drink it as part of the Seder until Eliyahu appears. His very appearance will show us that the time has come to drink the fifth cup, celebrating our complete redemption.
The custom is to pour Eliyahu’s Cup after drinking the third cup; when we pour the fourth cup for everybody, we pour a cup for Eliyahu as well. The custom is to leave Eliyahu’s Cup covered until morning, when we pour the wine back into the bottle and then use it for the morning kiddush. 33 37.Drinking Coffee or Juice after the Seder
We have learned that the Sages ordained the afikoman at the end of the Seder to commemorate the korban Pesaĥ, which was eaten "while satisfied." Just as it was forbidden to eat any other food after the Paschal sacrifice, so that its taste lingered, so too the Sages forbade eating after the afikoman. 34
It is also forbidden to drink wine after the afikoman, for several reasons. If one has not yet finished reciting the Hagada, he might become intoxicated and be unable to finish reciting Hallel properly; furthermore, by drinking an additional cup of wine, one will appear to be adding to the number of cups instituted by the Sages.
It is even forbidden to drink wine after the Seder, because there is a mitzva to delve into the laws of Pesaĥ and the Exodus story until one is overcome with sleep, and if one drinks wine or some other intoxicating beverage, he will not be able to do so (Rabbeinu Yona, Rosh). Furthermore, even though the Seder is over, if one drinks additional cups of wine he may still appear to be adding to the cups instituted by the Sages, or starting a new series of cups (Ramban, Ran).
Some poskim maintain that it is even forbidden to drink coffee or juice after the afikoman until one goes to sleep, because any flavored food or drink weakens the taste of the afikoman in one’s mouth, so just as it is forbidden to eat after the afikoman, so is it forbidden to drink anything flavored. To be sure, we drink two more cups of wine after the afikoman, but since these are part of the mitzva, they are not seen as weakening the taste of the mitzva. According to this, only water may be drunk after the Seder.
However, in contrast to these poskim, many other poskim permit drinking coffee or juice. They maintain that beverages are not included in the prohibition, because only food is seen as weakening the taste of the afikoman.
In practice, if one wishes to drink coffee or juice after the Seder, he may, as this is the opinion of most poskim. But preferably one should be stringent and avoid drinking anything except water. If one wishes to drink coffee so that he will be able to continue delving into the laws of Pesaĥ and the Exodus story, he may, even le-khatĥila. 35 38.Recounting the Exodus and Studying the Laws of Pesaĥ All Night
Some have a custom to read Shir Ha-shirim (the Song of Songs) upon completing the Hagada, as it alludes to the love between God and Israel.
Though we have fulfilled our obligation to tell the story of the Exodus by reading the Hagada, there is a mitzva to continue embellishing the story and telling of the miracles and wonders that God did for our ancestors throughout the night of the fifteenth, until one is overcome with sleep. This mitzva includes studying the laws of Pesaĥ (SA 481:2; Gevurot Hashem ch. 2), but it does not include "pilpul" (talmudic casuistry) (Derashot Ĥatam Sofer p. 265).
It is best not to spend a lot of time on the portion of the Hagada that precedes the meal, because we want the children and all of the participants to remain alert until the fourth cup. But after finishing the Hagada, there is a mitzva to continue discussing the Exodus as much as possible.
If one fears that by staying up late he will be unable to pray Shaĥarit properly, it is better that he goes to bed earlier (Sidur Yaavetz). An effort should nonetheless be made to continue relating the story of the Exodus until after midnight (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 481:11).
Before going to sleep on Pesaĥ night, it is customary to recite Shema and the berakha of Ha-mapil, but not to read the other verses that are read on all other nights. These verses are recited as a protective remedy against harmful forces, but this night is safeguarded against such forces and opportune for redemption (Rema 481:2; and see Ben Ish Ĥai, Tzav 38).
May it be God’s will that just as we have merited to study the halakhot of the Seder, so may we merit to fulfill them.