Monday, March 29, 2010

Afikoman as Metaphysical Conceit: Paradox of Pesach

You tell the wise child when she asks about the laws of the holiday - we don't have dessert, 'ain maftirin, afikoman,' we don't have an afikoman after the meal. No dessert! Yet, the sages use the Greek term - afikoman - for what we do eat at the end of the meal. So what does it mean that we don't have dessert - 'afikoman' - when in fact we do eat the afikoman?

Afikoman can also mean,' bring me the dessert.' After the wine drinking and symposium partying, the Greek revelers would have dessert - bring it on! - and then look for other parties: the after-party, the after-after-party. For the Greeks and later the Romans, it's 'Carpe Diem, baby!' Enjoy the present moment. But the sages say, no afikoman. No after-party tonite, sorry. Have the taste of the matzahs in your mouth for the rest of the night - just like our ancestors had the taste of the paschal sacrafice. So, no afikoman - no dessert.

But... the last part of the meal is
tzafon - which means literally 'hidden.' Bring out the hidden - bring the afikoman. Pay off the kids who hid the broken piece of the middle matzah - and bring it to the table - let every one have a piece - and end the seder with the taste of the afikoman. Another Jewish paradox: do not have an afikoman after the meal, but, bring the afikoman.

One has to know how the
seder is based on Greek antecedents to know how the seder is NOT Greek. Bring the afikoman - not of more wine and revelry, but bring out the hidden essence of Pesach. The matzah we eat during the meal recalls our redemption from Egypt; the hidden matzah of the afikoman - 'bring the dessert which is not a dessert' - foretells, our tradition tells us, a future redemption. We end the seder not with Greek partying - but with the taste of past and future - in the present. 'We don't end the meal with an afikoman'; 'bring the afikoman!'


Segev said...

Interestingly, that's what the Lubavitcher Rebbe might have sounded like if he had done graduate studies with Soloveitchik at some imaginary university!

敬忠 said...

nice job! waiting for your new artical. ........................................