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.

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 Divine protection – the perfect night for this process to take place as it is a time when negative forces 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” (so to speak) by the negative powers (yetzer hora) through the errors of mankind. On the night of Pesach we are able to “re-capture” these sparks of holiness and use them to bring back Divine spirituality into this world Since the yetzer took it through “theft” we re-capture it, through an act that looks like theft, at this time of Pesach when the forces of darkness are vanquished. 


        From Atkins to the Zone (alef to tov) and everything in between, diet, nutrition and fitness are the all consuming topics of this generation.  Countless hours are invested in trying to find that perfect combination of food, nutritional supplements and exercise.    In the process, kitchens are transformed into mini-labs complete with scales and measures, herbs and sprout growers, juicers grinders and processors of all sorts.  Precious space in small apartments has been dedicated to all kinds of exercise equipment. Books and magazines on health and nutrition crowd the shelves and pantries are filled with nutritional experiments.

  Contemporary diet and nutrition programs have, for many, virtually become  belief systems.  Each dietary path has its devoted adherents – ready to defend their faith to the last spoonful.   How can this be, we wonder?   Health and fitness are purely a physical, factual matter– are they not?  Yet people speak in terms of guilt, shame and taboo when they talk about eating. What is the deeper message in all of this from the Heavenly prospective? Is it only weight control or is there a more profound meaning to this diet revolution?

            First, let us take a moment to think about just how many facets of  life reflect occupation or preoccupation with food.  Eating and drinking are primary pleasures that have generated a multi billion dollar industry. Today, there is virtually no taste experience that is not available to the kosher consumer and so all of the  gustatory adventures available to the world at large  are open to observant Jews as well.

Inspired by the media and the merchandizing masters, the average person spends a startling percentage of his or her waking hours, buying, preparing and eating food and drinking beverages.  In reaction, many will then invest additional time learning to resist temptation.  If we add to these figures the amount of time and effort spent on learning to live with  food allergies and combating eating disorders we can easily see how  some enormous percent of  time and energy is spent in these pursuits. Thus, dieting has a tremendous mass appeal because it meets the diverse needs of large numbers of people.

       Let us return to our original question.  What is it about diet –whether elective or mandated by  an allergy or condition–that has become such a preoccupying factor in people’s  lives? Perhaps this phenomenon is a preparatory precursor to the time, in the hopefully not too distant future, when the Creator will impose a new world order known as the “birth pangs” of the the world’s redeemer (Mashiach) bringing with it a new state of higher consciousness for all mankind. Yet to achieve this new state of consciousness there will have to be a refocus upon things spiritual.  How can this happen we may wonder when we spend so much time pursuing materialistic goals. How will we ever willingly follow principles that are linked to spirituality which require the dedication of considerable time and effort?

Society’s preoccupation with food and specifically with dieting is perhaps a part of the Divine solution to this question.   For there is nothing like a diet to train a person in the skills needed to  achieve the discipline of following rules established by someone other than themselves  and experience the humility of  trying to overcome obstacles. 

Instilling belief:     Dieting works best when the dieter believes in his or her chosen diet.  Changing life long eating habits is challenging and for most  that challenge can only be met when the dieter is persuaded that the diet will completely overhaul and change his or her life.

Disciplined Action:   Once convinced of the virtues of a  particular way of eating, the dieter is willing to weigh every mouthful, go miles out of the way to find certified organic foods,  eat only according to a rigid schedule and learn to tolerate the physiological and psychological challenges that are a  part of the process.   

Reaping the Rewards:    When  dieters  painstakingly follow their diet plan, they experience  the  “good feeling”  that comes with  gaining control and mastery over their desires.  Indeed,  weight control may  be their first  experience of  self imposed discipline and restriction which leads them towards personal empowerment.  

Let us bring that intuition into focus and look at it more closely.  

Towards a Universal Diet: 

The new age goals of fitness and  health  are very important to many of us.   Whether prodded by their fears of gaining or losing weight, of becoming ill or of  showing the signs of aging,  many of us are willing to spend time and effort studying and investigating competing dietary claims and adhering to restrictive dietary regimens.  Many are willing to swallow the inflated costs of  buying  organic foods and  nutritional supplements and endure strenuous and often monotonous  exercise regimens.

For the health advocate, a profound yet practical benefit of these programs  is an enhanced awareness of the significance of  these actions.  This awareness  can lead to an heightened level of consciousness that will incorporate self control and discipline into many other facets of  their lives. (For those who put into practice refining their weighing and measuring ones dietary regime for some will help to awaken their awareness of the need to weigh and measure each of their decisions regarding kashrus          However this is only the beginning.  May we soon see the day that we, who  had previously weighed and measured our portions,  are weighing  and measuring the consequences of our actions; monitoring and directing our thoughts and emotions  in accordance with the Creator’s guidelines. We will then be able to  “exercise”  our free will to choose to fulfill the Creator’s will (mitzvoth and ma’asim tovim). These acts of Divine service will then serve as spiritual “wings” for us to reach new supernal heights. This elevation of the consciousness will also empower us to resist ephemeral temptations as we will now see life from an ethereal position  and understand the futility of pursuing temporal goals and ambitions as an end unto themselves.

   Therefore, we need not despair for  the Creator has already embedded within the mundane activities of this world the potential for reconnecting with Hashem.  May we all  merit to see the final redemption (geulah) soon in our days.

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