April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The days before Pesach are busy for a lot of people, but it’s the days after Pesach that can be a really busy time for a private detective. Like yours truly, the Maggid (and detective) of Manalapan. Sometimes the non-Jew who bought the chametz goes missing, and I need to locate him so that the rabbi can buy the chametz back. Sometimes items get put away with the year-round housewares and can’t be found after without a professional snoop—though usually it turns out that someone had taken the opportunity to get rid of that yellow vase that they always hated.

But the strangest post-Pesach case I ever had started with a phone call right after the chag ended. I had not even had the chance to procure a single post-Pesach donut, and my stomach was grumbling like an old station wagon’s engine. “Mr. Maggid—you have to help me!” It was a woman, clearly distraught. “Our afikomen—its missing! Its eight days later and our Seder is still going!”

Now I have heard people talking about how long their Seder went, but this was ridiculous. “How can that be, ma’am?”

“My stubborn sons were driving a hard bargain. My stubborn husband—he wasn’t giving in. Oy—I had to sneak away and make my own Havdalah in order to call you.”

“Ma’am—are you telling me your husband could not substitute another piece of matzah for the afikomen if he could not agree with your sons?”

“No! Someone must have thought of that beforehand. All the matzah in the house is gone!”

This sounded strange. Crazy in fact. I was not sure I should get involved. But, let’s face it, if it was not for craziness, private detectives like me would not have much work in the first place. “I will be right over,” I said.

I arrived to find a table still set with the Seder plate and wine glasses, and everyone still dressed in their Yom Tov finery. But they were looking all around, casing every inch of the joint. Knocking on floorboards, opening drawers and peering through magnifying glasses.

“Who can tell me what is going on here?” I made the rookie mistake of asking.

Everyone started shouting at once. There were four sons and the father. It seemed that they all had a lot to say about the unfairness of the others, and who stole the afikomen.

“One at a time!” I roared. At least I did not have to fire off a warning shot.

The father went first. “I have given them all good work experience in my business. Tried to prepare them for the future and to eventually take over in a way that suits them. Now they are taking advantage of the Afikomen to demand too much too soon!”

Then one son spoke up. “I have been the wisest and value-added to the business, with a continuous cycle of impactful synergies. I want to make sure we touch base to get on the same page as to skin in the game. Which is to say, I should get my piece of the business now!”

I asked him if he stole the afikomen. “Yeah, I stole it fair and square so I could make my demand, but then someone double-crossed me and re-stole it. I don’t know where it is now.”

The second son said, “What does all this experience mean anyway? Can I eat experience? I have worked longer than anyone, and I deserve my piece of the business first or I may end up with nothing!”

I asked him if he stole the afikomen. “Yeah, I stole it so I could make my demand, but then someone stole it from me. Double-crosser. I don’t know where it is now.”

The third son said, “I keep things simple and stable in the business. I am playing for the long term, and I need to know there is a long term. I should get my piece of the business first!” He also claimed not to know where the afikomen was after it was stolen from him.

I growled at them, “Don’t you guys know your Jewish history? Look at all the strife and suffering caused by brothers fighting. Kayin and Hevel. Joseph and his brothers, which led to the Egyptian slavery. Or think about Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, the Maccabean descendants in Bayit Sheini. They fought over who was the rightful heir to the throne, and ended up inviting in the Roman general Pompey’s troops as a result. That eventually led to the churban and dispersion. Do you want to all end up with nothing?”

The father and sons all looked suitably abashed. This time, my little lesson had hit home. “Okay,” said the father. “Tomorrow we will go to the rabbi and ask him to arbitrate how we should start dividing the business.”

“Deal,” said the sons. “But we still don’t where the afikomen is. Can you help us find it Mr. Maggid?”

“For that answer we—we have to ask—him!” I said. I turned to the fourth son, who had been quiet and looking sickly. “Only thing is, no one ever asked you, because you never made any demands or asked for anything yourself. Isn’t that right?”

Red faced, he looked down and said, “Its true. I also wanted to demand my piece of the business. But I didn’t know how to ask for it. So I stole the afikomen after all the others.”

“But you don’t have it anymore, do you?”

“No. I did not know a good place to hide it and I did know how to ask for help. So I—I ate it. That was the easy part. It was eating all the other matzah in the house that got tricky.” Its always the quiet ones, I thought to myself.

“He ate it. What do we do now?” wailed the father. “Will this Seder ever end?”

I was happy to report, “Luckily, I am a big matzah fan. I eat it all year round—matzah brei, matzah pizza, matzah fois gras and just plain matzah. So I stock up for the entire year at this time, and have plenty to go around.”

The family got their afikomen, and, for a change, I got my fee. All in a day’s work for the Maggid of Manalapan.

By Dan Barenholtz

 

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