It’s the night (lay’l)
of Pesach with all the family and guests joined together around the Seder
table. After Kiddush on wine the head of the household (Bal HaBais)divides the
middle matzah, wraps up the larger piece for the end of the meal (Afikomin) and
puts it snugly behind his pillow. Later in the evening (seder) someone points
to the place of the afikoman and whispers to the child, “Take 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 selfish inclination (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 book of Medrashim, 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.
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 Divine protection – the perfect
night for this process to take place as it is a time when negative forces are
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.
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
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
- BITTUL CHUMATZ – THE AWAKENING OF THE SOUL
- ON CHANGES AND TRANSPOSITIONS – CREAS YAM SUF