Jewish Soul Journey

PESACH : RECAPTURING THE INTEGRITY OF THE AFIKOMAN

  

             It’s the night of Pesach
with all the family and guests joined together around the Seder table. After
Kiddish the Bal HaBais breaks the middle matzah, wraps up the larger piece for
the Afikomin and puts it snugly  behind
his pillow.  Later in the seder someone
points to the place of the afikoman and whispers to the child, “Snatch it now,
quickly, while he’s not looking.” The child hesitates, feeling quite shy having
been brought up with proper values of respect and honesty. This night
everything at the house looks so different. The table is much longer than usual
filled with relatives and guests — it’s white and beautiful with lots of shiny
glasses, sparkling silver. But then with a little more prodding and a burst of
courage he moves closer to the treasured hidden away afikomen, hesitating,
until some one prompts him, “Quick, grab it and run.”

For
a second, he feels afraid, but as soon as it is in his hand, he feels an
exhilarating surge of excitement and exuberance. Even after hiding it he
continues to feel energized and successful. Much later, when the child is asked
to return the afikoman, he doesn’t give it right back, being prodded by others
to first ask for a nice prize.

Doesn’t
this conduct seem a quite odd?  Here we
are seemingly allowing our small untainted children to take something that
doesn’t belong to them and on top of that extort a reward for their efforts on
one of the holiest nights of the year. How can we possibly understand this conduct?

  Perhaps we can explain this unusual behavior
as follows. Usually the yetzer hara tries to lure a person into improper
behavior through offering feelings of ephemeral thrills and excitement. Even
though we want to avoid such conduct, the problem we face is that we simply
cannot discard the yetzer hara.  As in
the well known Medrash, when the Sages davened to remove the yetzer hara and
Hashem answered their tefillos, even the chickens stopped laying eggs. The
yetzer hara is necessary but needs to be controlled. The challenge to us is to sur
mei ra
, avoid evil, yet preserve our enthusiasm and direct it to our ma’asim
tovim.  But how do we do this? 

   Perhaps, this is precisely what we are
achieving when we encourage our children to take the afikomen.  We are allowing our young pure children to
experience the excitement that is usually motivated by the yetzer hara when engaged
in risky, dangerous and thrill seeking conduct. 
We do this by giving them a controlled dose of the “taste of desire.”
As the child grows up, that spiritual inoculation that was administered
l’shem Shamayim with love will then continue to act as an antidote against the
infectious negative powers of the yetzer hara. 
Indeed, that dose of controlled enthusiasm, experienced by the child on
lay’l Pesach, will enable him to rekindle those exuberant feelings throughout
the year directing them in a positive mode while learning Torah, performing
mitzvos and ma’asim tovim.

But
how can experiencing this “controlled taste of desire” both act as a vaccine
shielding the child from learning mis-conduct, while at the same time inspiring
the him with enthusiasm for all things that are Holy? It is because of the
setting in which this “taste” is given. Let us remember, the seder night is
referred to as – lay’l shemurim, the night of watching – the perfect night for this
process to take place as it is a time when the forces of evil are subdued. 

    You may be wondering, how can this
spiritual “inoculation” continue to protect us into our adult years?   Possibly
the answer is we use “booster shots”! 
Oh, we are not suggesting that this Pesach we grab the afikoman, however
we should watch the one who is taking it and allow that “small child” inside
each of us to relive and rekindle our own feelings of inner joy and exuberance,
thereby rekindling our youthful enthusiasm in the service of Hashem.

May
we all merit soon to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of afikoman in Jerusalem at the final
geula soon in our days.

————————–

   The
attribute of exuberance and excitement was stolen by the yetzer when Adam and
Chavea did the sin. On the night of Pesach we are able to re-capture our
inheritance and return it to be used in the holy service of H. Since the yetzer
took it through theft we re-capture it, through an act that looks like theft,
at a time when the forces of evil are subdued.

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia

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