June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The grass is always greener, isn’t it?

When I was a kid, I always wondered how the whole children-hiding-the-afikoman minhag is even fair. The father knows every corner of the house, there’s nowhere he can’t reach and he was a kid once. Plus, he had the afikoman to begin with. How did he even lose it to the kids?

And now, as an adult, I realize that it’s actually not fair to the parents. The father can reach all the high places, but he can’t reach all the low places, especially after a huge meal, not to mention two cups of wine and a shot-glass full of marror that are not getting along. And the kids had all year to think up a hiding spot, and he has until halachic midnight to figure it out. And if he holds onto the matzah in the first place and doesn’t let the kids grab it, he’s the bad guy. And he bought the matzah in the first place! He earned the money, and matzah is not cheap. Let these kids earn their present!

“Look, I’m going to sit on it and not get up. If you can make it disappear from under me, you deserve the prize.”

I’m too tired. I just cleaned the entire house, multiple times. Just last night, Mommy hid 10 pieces of bread, and I had to look for them. And tonight you’re hiding one piece of matzah and I have to look in all those same places again? Why am I always the one looking? I’m not even good at it! Last night I only found nine pieces, and Mommy negotiated for a necklace.”

So some parents make rules. That’s one benefit to being a parent—you get to make the rules. When my wife was growing up, her parents had a rule that the afikoman had to be a in a lit room. And the only lit rooms were the living room, dining room, and kitchen, all of which my father-in-law could see from his seat. There was also the bathroom, if anyone ever thought to put the afikoman bag into a second afikoman bag, which no one ever did.

In my opinion, that’s a good way to encourage their kids to accidentally leave their bedroom lights on for Yom Tov.

“Oops. I left the light on over the front door. The entire lawn is fair game now. See if you can get it before the animals d—Oh, never mind. The animal’s backing away from it.”

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have any rules. Well, actually, my father had one rule: We could hide it wherever we wanted, but he wouldn’t get up to look for it. I don’t know why I kept forgetting this. I was sure I had memories of a father looking for the afikoman. It must have been someone else’s father.

So as the oldest, I used to come up with all these increasingly elaborate hiding spots, and my father did not once get up and look. And then I would come up with something even more elaborate the next year.

For example, one year my strategy was to hide it in my bedroom at the bottom of a suit bag hanging in my closet. There is no way in a million years that he would have found that by midnight. He wasn’t even good at looking for things. Everything he ever finds is because my mother tells him where it is. His strength is that he’s more of a negotiator. So he’d sit there and bargain my sister down to him getting us small presents, and then she’d get up and retrieve it. So one year I told her where to hide it, and then I snuck away from the table and hid it somewhere else.

And the negotiations used to take hours. I’m pretty sure, looking back, that my father was trying to teach us how to negotiate, but it didn’t take. My negotiation skills are nonexistent. When someone calls me about a writing job (I’m a writer), I’m always like, “I charge X, but I can really do less.” They don’t even have to say anything. I’m very eager to please.

One negotiation tactic my father would use is he would threaten to just take a new matzah from the box. And to this day I’m not sure whether I have any kind of halachic leg to stand on against that. It doesn’t seem right. If the matzah is supposed to represent the korban Pesach, since when can you just replace it with another lamb if your kid hides the original?

Anyway, that’s when I learned that hiding the matzah doesn’t really work unless you hide all the matzah.

Then I became a father, and for the first few years, I had a seriously unfair advantage. I wanted to be an easygoing father who would get his 3-year-old an afikoman present without negotiating, but there’s nowhere he could have hid it that I wouldn’t find it. I was a reigning champion who had never had my afikoman found once—even the year I hid it right under the table. So I basically had to spend a few years pretending to look for it but purposely not finding it, especially the years that we spent the seder at my in-laws. And the year that my kids hid it on a high shelf—well, high for them. It was directly parallel to my face.

But now my kids are old enough to make it harder for me, and they’ve gotten to asking for things that are over our price range. “Yeah, don’t worry. We’ll put it together with tomorrow night’s present.”

And my wife goes, “Hey! Who says you get to steal it again tomorrow night?”

My wife wants to steal it tomorrow night. Sure, you can say that officially the afikoman minhag is about keeping the kids awake, but maybe you also want to keep your wife awake. She’s been running nonstop. And anyway, we generally have a harder time getting the kids to go to sleep.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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