Who Moved My Afikomin
We are taught Chometz is representative of illusions, imagination, bloated pipe-dreams and ego. Matzah is bare-bones actual reality. Think about it. You have bread and Matzah – they both have equal amounts of flour and water. The bread doesn’t have more of a nutritional oomph to it. Ah, but it inflates itself, doubling, tripling, growing and growing in size, if you let it. Squash out all that inflated air, pop the air-bubbles inside, and your dough goes limp, back to its reality. Matzah doesn’t inflate itself. It is what it is – plain, pure flour and water.
As we remove our physical Chametz from our homes, we are told we must do the same for our emotional and spiritual Chametz forces. We must face ourselves—who are we really, when we take away our puffed-up ego and pride? Stripped of our designer duds and luxury cars, who are we, underneath it all? We must face our reality. Aren’t down-to-earth healthy marriages more stable and enjoyable than what the tinsel of Hollywood has blown into air bubbles that harm our marriages? And then there are the inflated ideas that create fights. So he said that, so what? Does it mean that much? Squash out those growing, festering air from it, and you realize there isn’t that much of a difference between you two.
And then there are the illusions that don’t have to do with inflation of fantasies, but has to do with the playing around with actualities. Let me tell a tale of an afikomin that became an illusion, too. Afikomin stealing in a home of a dozen children creates Pesach memories of quite comic proportions. There is always that one year where things go wrong, where someone hides the Afikomin in the Chametz cabinet…or something to that effect. Well, one year, in our home, things took a different route.
My father, may he live and be well, had a designated Afikomin bag, extremely noticeable as the sack that had the treasure. It took some planning to steal it from him, but that wasn’t the challenge of the night. The challenge of the night was to steal it from whoever stole it last…and the whole night was a long, drawn-out affair of one Afikomin-robber stealing it from the previous thief.
Well, one of us had a brilliant idea that year. He stole the Afikomin, took out the Matzah from the bag and put it into another bag and replaced it with a “stam” Matzah – an ordinary Matzah. He then was tickled pink when someone stole the Afikomin bag from him, for he knew he was still in possession of the actual Afikomin. Oh, but wait, he confided in some of his siblings. Before you know it, his other bag was stolen. The thief took out the actual Afikomin and put in a “stam” Matzah and stealthily put it back in the hiding place of the original thief who thought he had the actual Afikomin, but no longer did. In the meanwhile the Afikomin bag was making its rounds…and, for whatever the reason (mental telepathy?) everyone had the same brilliant idea that night. Each thief took out the matzah from the Afikomin bag and replaced it with a “dummy Afikomin matzah”. The same was happening with the actual Afikomin.
Tzafun, the part of the Seder where the Afikomin gets eaten, came along. My father announced it was time for negotiations to get the Afikomin back so we could eat. And that is when all confusion broke loose, for every member of the family thought they had the actual Afikomin. Every one of the siblings!
There was no Chametz to give us a bloated illusion that threw us off. There were multiple views of what we thought was reality. “Mine is the real deal.” World War III seemed pretty close to our home that night as we argued over the veracity of our piece of Matzah — were we holder of the Afikomin or not?!
In the end, we pooled together every single one of those Afikomins into a pile which ended up perfect to be doled out as Afikomin Matzah, for one little Afikomin wouldn’t suffice for our family anyhow, and this way, we didn’t have to add from the Matzah box to the Afikomin bag…for there was that whole pile of supposed Afikomins to be dealt with. The reality is that whether or not we had the “real deal” it turned out to be the real Afikomin when we came together and thought of a solution.
The Afikomin, says Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L, hints at the next world. In our Jewish world, even after we have defeated the Yetzer Harah, our evil inclination, and done away with the fantasies and ego, we still have a problem. Each sect, each group of Jews, thinks only they have the ticket to Olam Ha’Ba, to the next world, to Paradise. We end up fighting that only our way is the “real deal”. Well, my friends, there is a way out of that mess. Olam Ha’Bah, Paradise, is big enough for all of us. Let us pool our Derachim together, let us unify as one, so that we can all enjoy the Tzafun, the hidden reward that will satiate us.
After all, that is the message of the Karban Pesach – unity. That is why it was eaten as a group activity, with all the Jews unified in our Holy City. That is why it was roasted whole. To reinforce again and again, that we are to be one nation, united in our love of G-d.
May this year be the one where we get that message and unify, each one of us, into one cohesive Afikomin-eating nation.