Uncle Ziemel's Afikomen

Haggadah Section: Yachatz

There are three pieces of matzah stacked on the table. We now break the middle matzah into two pieces. The host should wrap up the larger of the pieces and, at some point between now and the end of dinner, hide it. This piece is called the afikomen, literally “dessert” in Greek. After dinner, the guests will have to hunt for the afikomen in order to wrap up the meal… and win a prize.

We eat matzah in memory of the quick flight of our ancestors from Egypt. As slaves, they had faced many false starts before finally being let go. So when the word of their freedom came, they took whatever dough they had and ran with it before it had the chance to rise, leaving it looking something like matzah.

Uncover and hold up the three pieces of matzah and say:

This is the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. This year we are here; next year we will be in Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free.

This year, our matzah comes from Vermatzah and is "eco Kosher" - baked with a broader sense of “good practice” in everyday life that draws on the deep well-springs of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships between human beings and the earth

Our great uncle Ziemel Resnick shared a tent with David Ben Gurion in World War I. Years later, his seders in Asbury Park were the stuff of family legend, mildly terrifying to a six year old, where you would share the table with a 2nd cousin and a NJ state politician, not sure who was who. Once found, Uncle Ziemel fit the Afikomen back into the middle matzah, to show that it was in fact the missing piece, and he would say “Nothing that is broken off is lost as long as the children remember to search for it.” He knew the sacrifices that would be made to overcome the willful negligence of the British and the aggression of the Arab states to create an independent Israel. Uncle Ziemel’s searches included guns, ammunition, explosives, and parts for tanks and airplanes, funneled to the Haganah by way of secret meetings atop an Asbury Park ferris wheel. He remembered all of his fights for freedom, each and every Seder.

Pesach leads us to look at things in before and after states - chametz and Kosher L'Pesach.  Slavery and freedom.  Winter and Spring. Before and after the meal.  The middle matzah and the afikomen.  For some of these, once the change occurs, there's no going back to the before state.  But what is kosher can be made trayfe; freedom can erode into different kinds of slavery.  Part of our figurative search must be to identify and then address the comfort and complacency that let us slide backwards.

Stuff of family legend, Vermatzah.com, Josh Fleet's "Geulah Papyrus"

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