is a distinct mitzva in its own right. In other words, each cup is treated separately and one is not considered to be drinking in pairs.
The baraita taught that one should not attend to his sexual needs in pairs. The Gemara asks: Why should one be concerned for this; he has changed his mind? One does not plan in advance to engage in marital relations twice, and therefore the two acts should not combine to form a dangerous pair. Abaye said: This is what the tanna is saying, i.e., the baraita should be understood in the following manner: One should not eat in pairs nor drink in pairs, and if he does so he should not attend to his sexual needs right afterward even once, lest he is weakened by the act and will be harmed for having eaten or drunk in pairs.
The Sages taught in another baraita: If one drinks in pairs his blood is upon his head, i.e., he bears responsibility for his own demise. Rav Yehuda said: When is that the case? When one did not leave the house and view the marketplace between cups. However, if he saw the marketplace after the first cup, he has permission to drink another cup without concern. Likewise, Rav Ashi said: I saw Rav Ḥananya bar Beivai follow this policy: Upon drinking each cup, he would leave the house and view the marketplace.
And we said that there is concern for the safety of one who drinks in pairs only when he intends to set out on the road after drinking, but if he intends to remain in his home there is no need for concern. Rabbi Zeira said: And one who plans to sleep is comparable to one who is setting out on the road. He should be concerned that he might be harmed. Rav Pappa said: And going to the bathroom is comparable to setting out on the road. The Gemara asks: And if one intends to remain in his home, is there no cause for concern? But Rava would count the beams of the house to keep track of the number of cups he had drunk so as to ensure that he would not consume an even number.
And likewise Abaye, when he would drink one cup, his mother would immediately place two cups in his two hands so that he would not inadvertently drink only one more cup and thereby expose himself to the danger of drinking in pairs. And similarly, when Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak would drink two cups, his attendant would immediately place one more cup in his hand, and if he would drink one cup, the attendant would place two cups in his two hands. These reports indicate that one should be concerned for his safety after drinking an even number of cups, even when he remains at home. The Gemara answers: An important person is different. The demons focus their attention on him, and he must therefore be more careful than the average person.
Ulla said: Ten cups contain no element of the danger associated with pairs. Ulla rules here in accordance with his reasoning stated elsewhere, as Ulla said, and some say it was taught in a baraita: The Sages instituted that one must drink ten cups of wine in the house of a mourner during the meal of comfort. And if it could enter your mind that ten cups do contain the element of danger associated with pairs, how could the Sages arise and institute something that might bring a person to a state of danger? However, eight cups do contain the element of danger associated with pairs.
Rav Ḥisda and Rabba bar Rav Huna both say that eight is also safe from the dangers of pairs, as the number seven, represented by the word shalom, combines with the previous cups for the good but does not combine for the bad. The final verse of the priestly benediction reads: “The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace [shalom]” (Numbers 6:26). The word shalom, the seventh Hebrew word in this verse, has a purely positive connotation. Rav Ḥisda and Rabba bar Rav Huna therefore maintain that the seventh cup combines with the previous six only for good purposes. After the seventh cup, i.e., from the eighth cup and on, the cups constitute pairs for the good but not for the bad. However, six cups do contain the element of danger associated with pairs.
Rabba and Rav Yosef both say that even drinking six cups is not dangerous. The reason is that the fifth cup, represented by the word viḥuneka in the second verse of the priestly benediction: “The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you [viḥuneka]” (Numbers 6:25), combines with the previous cups for the good but does not combine for the bad. However, four cups do contain the element of danger associated with pairs.
Abaye and Rava both say that even the number four is not dangerous, as veyishmerekha, the third word in the first verse of the priestly benediction, reads: “The Lord bless you and keep you [veyishmerekha]” (Numbers 6:24). It combines for the good but does not combine for the bad.
And Rava follows his standard line of reasoning in this regard, as Rava allowed the Sages to leave after having drunk four cups and was not concerned for their safety. Although Rava bar Livai was injured on one such occasion, Rava was not concerned that the matter had been caused by his consumption of an even number of cups, as he said: That injury occurred because Rava bar Livai challenged me during the public lecture. It is improper for a student to raise difficulties against his rabbi during a public lecture, lest the rabbi be embarrassed by his inability to answer.
Rav Yosef said: Yosef the Demon said to me: Ashmedai, the king of the demons, is appointed over all who perform actions in pairs, and a king is not called a harmful spirit. A king would not cause harm. Consequently, there is no reason to fear the harm of demons for having performed an action in pairs. Some say this statement in this manner: On the contrary, he is an angry king who does what he wants, as the halakha is that a king may breach the fence of an individual in order to form a path for himself, and none may protest his action. Similarly, the king of demons has full license to harm people who perform actions in pairs.
Rav Pappa said: Yosef the Demon said to me: If one drinks two cups, we demons kill him; if he drinks four, we do not kill him. But this person who drank four, we harm him. There is another difference between two and four: With regard to one who drinks two, whether he did so unwittingly or intentionally, we harm him. With regard to one who drinks four, if he does so intentionally, yes, he is harmed; if he does so unwittingly, no, he will not be harmed.
The Gemara asks: And if one forgets and it happens that he goes outside after having drunk an even number of cups, what is his solution? The Gemara answers: He should take his right thumb in his left hand, and his left thumb in his right hand, and say as follows: You, my thumbs, and I are three, which is not a pair. And if he hears a voice that says: You and I are four, which makes a pair, he should say to it: You and I are five. And if he hears it say: You and I are six, he should say to it: You and I are seven. The Gemara relates that there was an incident in which someone kept counting after the demon until he reached a hundred and one, and the demon burst in anger.
Ameimar said: The chief of witches said to me: One who encounters witches should say this incantation: Hot feces in torn date baskets in your mouth, witches; may your hairs fall out because you use them for witchcraft; your crumbs, which you use for witchcraft, should scatter in the wind;