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Normally if you have wine and refill your glass during the meal you don't make a new borei p'ri hagafen. Why do we (at least Ashkenazim) say a new b'racha for each cup at the seder? I think I've seen an explanation somewhere about them having four different purposes, but I couldn't find it in any of the haggadot I have handy (and I thought that's where I read it).

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Note that Sefardim don't. They say on cups 1 and 3. –  Double AA Mar 17 '13 at 23:33
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"On all other nights, when we drink wine, we refill our glasses and drink without making separate brachahs.... Why tonight do we make 4 brachahs?" :-) –  Charles Koppelman Mar 18 '13 at 0:42
    
My rav at the shabbos hagadol drasha said the four mitzvos are kiddush hayom, maggid, birchat hamazon, and hallel. Each one is said 'al hakos' just like bris milah, or birchas hamazon, or kiddush hayom. –  sabbahillel Apr 13 at 2:05
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The Magen Avraham (OC 474:1 and similarly in Taz there) explains that each of the four cups is a separate mitzva, and it is therefore considered as if he had in mind specifically not to exempt the other cups with his Brocha. The Pri Megadim adds that it is preferable to actually have this in explicitly in mind.

The Minchas Shlomo (vol. 1 18:6) questions this explanation, for granted that each cup is a separate mitzva but the question was why we make a separate "hagofen" for each cup. "Hagofen" is not a brocha recited before doing a mitzva (bircas hamitzvos) , but rather a brocha said before eating (bircas hanenen) and so what relevance is there to the fact that each cup is its own mitzva? He explains that because each cup is an independent mitzva, the Sages established that one should not have the subsequent cups in mind while reciting the blessing in order to give each cup it's own importance. See there are length.

The Gra there (quoted by Mishna Berura :4) brings an alternative explanation, that since one may not drink between the first and second cup (after he starts reciting the hagada) this is considered an interruption that requires a new Brocha.

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That seems like an odd assumption. Karpas is different from Maror is different from Korech, and Matza is different from Afikoman, but no new brachot there. –  Double AA Mar 18 '13 at 0:00
    
@DoubleAA Karpas is not a mitzva, and the Brocha for Matza/Maror covers Korech because we don't have a psak whether halacha is like hillel or not. Most say afikomen doesn't need a Brocha. –  Michoel Mar 18 '13 at 0:09
    
What?? We're talking birkot hanehenin here. –  Double AA Mar 18 '13 at 1:04
    
@DoubleAA See the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Haggada by Matza based on Shulchan Aruch Harav 575:18 that one does not even have to have in mind when eating the matza that it covers the afikomen. It would appear he holds that it is consisered a chiyuv but not a mitzva huge. –  Michoel Mar 18 '13 at 1:17
    
@DoubleAA The Minchas Shlomo (vol. 1 18:6) asks that. See there at length. –  Michoel Mar 18 '13 at 1:18
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