For many years in Jewish homes during the Passover seder it is a tradition for one of three pieces of Matzah, unleavened bread, to be broken in half, wrapped in a napkin, hidden and later found in a hunt to be served as dessert for the Passover seder. This half of unleavened bread is called the afikomen. It symbolizes the Passover lamb. For Jewish children, the afikomen is used to hold their attention until the end of the seder. There are a few different traditions of the finding of the afikomen. In some families the children steal the matzah and are paid a ransom in order to get it back to the table. In other families it is hidden and the children search for it and are rewarded. Some Jews from Middle Eastern countries saw the afikomen as having special powers and kept a piece of it as a good luck charm.
Though the Passover lamb was originally a part of the feast that was described by Moses in the Torah, today there is no lamb eaten at Jewish Passover seders. This is because after the destruction of the Temple the Passover sacrifice could no longer be properly made, and so lamb was no longer eaten at the feast. The last piece of matzah, called the afikomen, is substituted for the lamb. It even has to be eaten before midnight, just as Moses commanded, "You shall let none of it remain until morning" (Ex. 12:10).
Three matzahs sit on the Passover table. There are a few different opinions on why this is. some people see them as symbolic of the three divisions of the Jewish people: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. Others see them as a reminder of the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The middle matzah, the one that is broken, the one symbolizing the Passover Lamb, would correspond to Isaac.
Why is this final piece of matzah called the afikomen? The actual word comes from a Greek word in the middle of a Hebrew feast. Its Greek meaning can be understood as "that which is coming", or dessert. Others translate the word in a different meaning their meaing is, "he who is coming." According to Jewish tradition, Messiah will come at Passover to bring a redemption like unto the redemption brought through Moses. This is why a place is left at the table for Elijah, the forerunner of Messiah (Malachi 4:5).
Take the Afikoman and divide it among all the guests at the table.
It is custom not to drink or eat anything (except the remaining two cups of wine) after eating the Afikoman.
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