He presented this teaching from R. Gershon Henokh of Radzin, the third Ishbitzer rabbi March 18, 2007 at Congregation B’nai Israel.
Shoshana Dembitz’s notes:
The four cups represent hotseiti, lakakhti, hazalti, and ga’alti
1) hotseiti, I take you out. Making Kiddush celebrates the beginning of being a Jew, going out of Egypt, acting on freedom to recognize God in this moment. We celebrate the precious holiness of the sacred point in each Jewish person, the sacred consciousness activated by liberation. We are emerging from concealment to revelation, mehelem al hagilooi.
Anytime you take a concealed moment and reveal Godliness is called “going out of Egypt”.
2) v’lakakhti, and I have taken you to myself (as in sexual unity), embraced you, as in intimacy. This cup of wine is drunk when we recite the ma nishtana.
God embraces Israel as a wife. The Jewish people experience this intimacy.
We realize oneness from the roots of our being. We realize that we had always been free. In this cosmic union with God, God says, “You have been with me the whole time.”
Israel collectively recognizes its union with the Creator that has become manifest, that has been there all along.
The Chassidic masters always gave the benefit of the doubt to the Jewish people. Everything came from above as an act of grace. Since it didn’t come from within, the people forgot it instantly, (and began asking for the meat and onions they had had in Egypt).
When God says, “I have taken you”, we all realize we are children of God. It’s hard for someone who is abused (as the Jewish people were when they were enslaved), to realize we are children of God, and that we have always been pure no matter what we’ve gone through.
[One of the students compared this to Jung’s teaching that psychological growth is establishing connection to the transcendent that we were not aware of.]
3) At the time of the Birkat HaMazon, the third cup represents v’hazalti, I have saved you. God is saving the people closest to God, like God’s shadow (zal means shadow). By recognizing God, having God-consciousness, we can inherit the earth, as God said, “I will bring you to the land I will show you.”
4) V’ga’alti I have redeemed you. (from the Zohar). This is the last level: You have to go through all the stages to get there. God illuminated Israel. There is complete liberation. You realize that you were never enslaved. Deep inside, you know you were never oppressed—retroactively. Compare this to a Buddhist, seeing all suffering as illusory. As a Jew, now I see that God was with me the whole time.
Reb Gershon was considered very radical in his lifetime, the early 20th century. He started observing a mitzvah that had been in abeyance for 2000 years, the wearing of the blue thread in the tsitsit, because he discovered a mollusk on the coast of Italy that was the same as the original source of the blue dye. This custom was accepted eagerly by the Bratslaver ba’alei tschuvah. He also created a new book of the Baylonian Talmud, collecting writings on a part if the Mishnah, Taharot, which up to that point had not had its own book of Talmud.