The Story of the Afikomen

Where Did You Hide the Afikomen?

By: Rabbi Steven Wernick

….. [introduction about hiding the afikomen and where you might do it] Hiding the afikomen clearly is one of Passover’s most beloved traditions, but have you ever wondered what its purpose might be? Why do we do it?

Over the centuries many answers have been offered. Rambam suggests that it is an unusual action designed to pique a child’s curiosity, to inspire questions, and to keep children awake and engaged throughout the seder.

The Vilna Gaon teaches that we hide the afikomen to prevent its embarrassment, because it is overlooked until after the meal. The other matzot, after all, receive a bracha, so we cover this one and remove it from the table.

There are other explanations as well, many much more technical and legal in nature.

Because the seder may not be concluded until the afikomen is discovered and consumed, I believe there must be deeper meanings associated with this ritual. One, perhaps, has to do with wanting wholeness, but not having it. Brokenness is a symbol of incompleteness. Wholeness often is elusive. Live is not whole, yet we constantly look toward and strive for completion, for redemption. That our people’s original redemption from slavery to freedom happened once heartens us, because through recalling that redemption we know that our future redemption, both individual and national, is not a fantasy. This knowledge gives us hope.

We begin the story of our past afflictions with an appeal for hope in the present and with our gaze set on the future. We cannot see the future. We cannot even understand the full consequences of our present actions. We can, however, look back at past events and value them as a guide in our present actions as we prepare for a better tomorrow.

… [goes on to discuss strategic planning for USCJ]. Now is the time to leave Egypt behind and to move into the future that began with the revelation at Sinai. That future is not fully known, like the afikomen it is partially hidden, but I for one am looking forward to the journey to find it.

CJ (Conservative Judaism) Magazine, Spring 2011