Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Strap on the Helmets, Kids, it’s Time to Look for the Afikomen!

Since when did a Seder become a contact sport?

By: Daniel Horowitz

Published: March 27th, 2013 in News » World

Without question, the most anticipated part of the Passover seder for young children is when, like sinewy greyhounds waiting for their respective gates to open at the dog track, and having consumed mass quantities of sugar-infused kosher for Pesach grape juice moments earlier, they are given carte blanche to run, bump and generally go insane as they look for the Afikomen.

And, after witnessing what I did over the last two nights at Seders held at my in-laws’ house, I can’t imagine the search for Bin Laden having been any less intense. Although, none of the kids at the Seders had access to night-vision goggles.

For those of you unfamiliar with this strange ceremony within the ceremony, there are many theories as to why we wrap and hide a piece of matzoh, known as the Afikomen before the Seder. The commonly believed explanation is that the practice – instituted during the Middle Ages by Jewish families – was simply to make the Seder more engaging, entertaining and exciting for children who aren’t exactly known for their patience at the best of times, let alone when sitting through a long ritual meal.

In a typical Passover Seder there are three pieces of matzoh used. During the fourth part of the Seder (called Yachatz) the leader will break the middle of these three pieces in two. The smaller piece is returned to the seder table and the larger piece is set aside in a napkin or bag. This larger piece is called the “Afikomen,” a word that comes from the Greek word for “dessert.” It is so called not because it is sweet, but because it is the last item of food eaten at the Seder. We wrap it to re-enact the way that the Sons of Israel carried the dough out of Egypt. Many have the custom to wrap it and put it over their shoulder.

Many theorize that hiding the Afikomen symbolizes that the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt was only the beginning of the process of redemption, part of it is still hidden.

At any rate, as soon as the participating children were given the green light, my son Eli, and 6 or 7 other youngsters under the age of eight took off like Raja Davis when attempting to steal second base, while my father-in-law instructed them as to their “hotness” or “coldness” based on their proximity to the prize.

My four-year-old daughter, doing her best Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” showed a steely determination to reap the riches that go with finding the Grail…I mean, the Afikomen.

My son fended off two others who were clearly too close to his territory using the cunning and brilliance he uses on me in order to obtain a second handful of Mike and Ike’s.

Finally, when all was said and done, my son won the $20 prize while I secretly took delight in his previously unknown set of survival skills while patting the other youngsters on their shoulders, telling them, “that’s okay, you’ll get ‘em next year!”

I’ve already been called a “hockey dad”, for carrying on a bit too much when Eli scores a goal in his Sunday night hockey league, but it’s worse. Apparently, I’m also an “Afikomen Dad!”

Not to push my son too much, but I have already contacted the producers of the Great Race, and Eli will be competing next season.

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