April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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With the Passover seder comes a wonderful tradition involving the hiding and finding of the Afikoman. It is the Jewish version of hide-and-go-seek, a fun game designed to keep the youngsters engaged in the seder evening’s activities. Finding the Afikoman does not mean you will automatically have a life full of joy and happiness but watching someone else find the Afikoman does mean that your night is (temporarily) ruined. It also means that you might go to bed that night with questions running through your troubled mind like:

“Why on earth did they tell me that I was “cold” when I was looking right next to the couch cushion under which the Afikoman was hidden? That was so misleading. At one point, I actually was sitting on that couch cushion so I couldn’t have been any hotter! I feel so manipulated and used. Why did I even get up to look for the Afikoman? I guess that’s what happens when a 35-year old competes with kids.”

The term “Afikoman” is a Hebrew word (based on a Greek word) and means “that which comes after dessert.” If you are dining out, then there is one thing that certainly comes after dessert: the check. If you are dining at home, then the things that usually come after dessert include dish-washing, naps and, of course, birkat hamazon.

The Afikoman actually is nothing more than a small piece of matzah that is broken away from a larger piece of matzah. The breaking of the matzah is supposed to take place during the early phases of the seder and then the breakaway bandit, i.e., the Afikoman, is set aside and hidden. For the record, during the seder it is better to break a piece of matzah than to break a promise, break a heart or break with tradition.

Some scholars contend that according to Jewish law, the Afikoman must be the very last thing eaten at the seder, with no other consumption to follow until the morning’s breakfast. That means that after the Afikoman, you probably should not even chew gum. Then again, does chewing gum really qualify as eating? It’s unclear. By analogy, does humming qualify as singing? Does floating qualify as swimming? Does squatting qualify as sitting? Discuss.

Many scholars contend that the Afikoman officially ends the meal and seder festivities because we are supposed to refrain from the sort of after-dinner revelry that certain groups of non-Jews used to enjoy. The truth is, Afikoman or no Afikoman, most Jews have very little left in the tank after a long seder. The last thing most Jews want to do after a seder is to party. They would much rather collapse on the couch while others try in vain to clean up all of the inevitable, annoying and ubiquitous matzah crumbs.

Other scholars contend that the Afikoman is a substitute for the Passover sacrifice, the last thing consumed at the Passover seder during the time of the Temples. The Talmud actually states that the taste of the Afikoman should remain in a person’s mouth. That said, there are other things in life that should not remain in a person’s mouth including a pacifier, a dentist’s drill or a kazoo.

Most scholars agree that the Afikoman should be eaten before midnight because the during Temple times the Passover sacrifice also took place before midnight. Of course, other things at a seder also should take place before midnight including, most importantly, the meal. If midnight comes and you are still singing “Dayenu,” then perhaps your family members are nocturnal olms.

There are no official laws or rules regarding the hiding of the Afikoman. In theory, no place is off-limits but that does not mean that common sense should be abandoned. Do not hide the Afikoman recklessly without regard to safety. Do not hide the Afikoman spitefully or to satisfy a grudge. Do not hide the Afikoman to prove a point or teach a lesson. Instead, hide the Afikoman in a spot that will make the hunt fun and safe for everyone. To be clear, you absolutely should NOT hide the Afikoman in any of the following locations:

1. In traffic

2. In a quarantined area

3. In Utah’s labyrinthine Antelope Canyon

4. In a militarized zone

5. In Turkmenistan’s flaming Darvaza Crater

6. In the line of fire

7. Under a landmine

8. In a beehive or hornets nest

9. In the Quantum Realm (even if the seekers have an Antman suit)

10. In Madagascar’s dangerous Forest of Knives

11. In the Mount Everest death zone

12. In perpetuity

Final thought: It is better to hide the Afikoman than to hide the truth, hide your feelings or hide your true colors.

By Jon Kranz


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