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In the Passover Hagadah after Birchat Hamazon and before completing Hallel we say the following:

שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל-הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְדָעוּךָ וְעַל-מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ. כִּי אָכַל אֶת-יַעֲקֹב וְאֶת-נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ. שְׁפָךְ-עֲלֵיהֶם זַעֲמֶךָ וַחֲרוֹן אַפְּךָ יַשִּׂיגֵם תִּרְדֹף בְּאַף וְתַשְׁמִידֵם מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי ה'

Why do we say שפך חמתך? It sounds pretty aggressive. Why are we asking God to pour out his wrath onto the other nations that do not know him?

Why does this paragraph come after Birkat Hamazon and before Hallel?

What does it have to do with the exodus from Egypt? Isn't the subject matter of the night the discussion of the exodus? This seems to deviate from that focus. Why?

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Ritva explains that there are two reasons for the inclusion of this verse (Jeremiah 10:25) at this point in the Haggada. First of all, because the four cups correspond to the four retributions God will bring to the nations. Upon the last cup, we pray for the corresponding retributive act. Secondly, the punishment of the wicked is linked in some sources to the redemption of the righteous Israel, so it fits with the seder's theme of redemption. These are his words in his commentary the Haggada:

ומה שתיקנו לומר על כוס רביעי פסוק שפוך חמתך על הגוים, הוא מפני כי לפי שקיימנו מצות ד' כוסות כנגד ד' כוסות של פורענות שעתיד הקדוש ברוך הוא להשקות לאומות העולם, אנו אומרים על כוס האחרון שיגיע אותו הזמן שישקה אותם ה' כוס חמתו הוא כוס התרעלה כדכתיב (איכה ד') שישי ושמחי בת אדום וכו' גם עליך תעבור כוס, ולא עוד אלא שעיקר גאולתינו תלויה בחורבן קרן מלכותם כדאמרינן בבראשית רבה (פרשה כ"א) עד ערב בוקר אלפים ושלש מאות ונצדק קדש (דניאל ח'), אמר רבי יצחק כשיעשה ערב בקרן של אומות העולם אז ונצדק קדש, וכן הנביא אומר (ישעיה ס') כי הנה החשך יכסה ארץ וערפל לאומים ועליך יזרח ה' וכבודו עליך יראה במהרה בימינו אכי"ר.

And that which they arranged to say the verse of "Pour thy wrath on the nations" over the fourth cup is because we fulfilled the mitsvah of the four cups corresponding to the four cups of retribution that God will serve to the the nations of the world, so we remark upon the last cup that that time should arrive at which God will serve them his wrath...As it says (Lamentations 4) 'Be Happy and rejoice daughter of Edom etc. also upon you will the cup pass'. And furthermore, our primary redemption is dependent upon the destruction of the basis of their kingdom, as we say in Genesis Rabba (21)...And also the prophet says (Isaiah 60) 'For behold the the darkness will cover the land, and fog, the nations, and upon thee will God shine, and his glory will be seen on you', soon and in our days, amen, so it may be his will!

His colleague R. Bahya writes very similarly to his first explanation in his commentary to Exodus (6:8):

ותקנו לנו רז"ל לגמור את ההלל בכוס רביעי ולהתחיל בו: שפוך חמתך, והטעם בזה לפי שעתיד הקדוש ברוך הוא להשקות לרשעי העולם ארבע כוסות של פורענות,

The rabbis established that we complete Hallel with a fourth cup, and to begin it: 'pour thy wrath', and the reason for this is that God will serve the wicked of the world four cups of retribution.

This explanation for the practice is suggested by Maharam Halava (Pesahim 99b) and stated by R. Nissim of Gerona (Rif Pesahim 19a). See also Meiri (Pesahim 99b). It is also stated by Ritva's mentor R. Aharon Halevi as cited by Orehot Hayyim (Vol. I Seder Leil HaPesah: 32), and by Abudirham (commentary to Haggadah) who connect the verse to the cups of retribution, (although they don't specify the significance of the verse to that particular cup). Its origin seems to be the commentary of R. Eleazar of Worms to the Haggada.

Rashbats, however, gives a different explanation: given the superstitious surrounding activities performed in pairs, the fourth cup: the second in the pair of pairs, was thought to invoke punishment. A prayer is therefore inserted at that point that the punishment should be directed instead at Israel's enemies. (Ma'amar Hamets 135):

ונ"ל טעם יותר מחייב היותו בזה הכוס [הרביעי] יותר מהאחרים לפי שהוא כוס רביעי. והשותה כפלים מתחייב בנפשו...לכן אנחנו אומרים שאין לנו בזה הכוס הרביעי דאגה מפורענות. והשם ישפוך חמתו על הגוים. לא עלינו.

It should be noted that this is likely later addition to the Haggada, and is absent for example from Rambam's text. It is, however, mentioned in the Seder Rav Amram Gaon, but this seems to be a later addition (see ed. Goldschmidt p. 118). For more on the history and reason for this practice, see here and here.

My own suggestion regarding the implied violence, and the apparent origin of the practice in 12th century France, is that perhaps it was a response to the First and Second Crusades. (Although according to this the idea of connecting the last cup to the destruction of Jewish enemies is likely older, it seems quite likely to me that the addition of this verse, and the popularisation of the practice was prompted by the Crusades.)[i]

R. Hayyim Bloch suggested (see here page 220) adding the opposite request: that God pour forth his love on the righteous nations, besides for punishing the wicked:

שפוך אהבתך על הגוים אשר ידעוך ועל ממלכות אשר בשמך קוראים

This change clearly highlights that only the wicked are being condemned.

Incidentally, Bloch indicated that he found this in an earlier version, but he seems to have lied (ibid). For a lengthy discussion of Bloch and his forgeries, see here.

As always CYLOR about whether you should say the common version, some variation, or omit it entirely.


[i] Interestingly, this source connects the popularisation of the custom to migrations following the first crusade, but ignores my own suggestion; that the practice itself was a reaction to the crusade!

  • Comments less down vote? – mevaqesh Jul 3 '17 at 4:11
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What does it have to do with the exodus from Egypt?

This is linked with V'hei sheomdah- Pesach is the time of all redemptions from oppression. The ki ochal is a key part here.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya temp! – mevaqesh Apr 5 '17 at 18:00

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