My Passover preparation began a few weeks ago, when I started thinking about—some might say perseverating over—the afikomen gift. In my defense, this is a reasonable concern as our family Seder will be attended by all three of our grown children, their plus-ones and friends from childhood, all of whom are independent, gainfully employed adults, most of whom will have to go to work early tomorrow morning.
Two weeks ago they informed me they’d happily play along without monetary incentives to ensure our Seder ended before midnight.
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I remember when the kids were younger and they were involved in every stage of Passover preparation. When the eldest decided the youngest was ready to memorize the four questions, she drilled him for weeks until she was sure he was ready to take over the task.
The night before the eve of Passover, they would join forces to hide the chametz for the search, looking for obscure spots that would prevent us, and the dog, from easily finding the ten pieces of bread.
The next morning, after burning the chametz in the grill on the back porch, we’d listen to Passover and other Jewish music while baking Passover chocolate cake—using Savta Vivian’s recipe that doesn’t require separating eggs and beating the whites to a froth—and chopping apples and pulverizing walnuts for charoset, while decorating the house and setting the table for the Seder.
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Yesterday, Rabbi Joshua Heller sent a lovely Passover message to the members of Congregation B’nai Torah explaining the tradition surrounding the afikomen. He wrote about the discussion of the rabbis in the Talmud, who debated the reason for hiding the piece of matzah that is the last food eaten at the meal, noting Rabbi Eliezer’s instruction that the leader “grabs the matzah so that the children will not sleep” may not have originally meant “swipe the matzah, so that children would be entertained by the associated chicanery.” Nevertheless, the custom of the adults hiding the afikomen, and the children finding it and negotiating the terms of its return to the leader, is a favorite Seder memory for many of us.
It was certainly one of mine, and one I worked hard to recreate for my children. I wasn’t quite ready to give up on it, even though they gave me explicit permission to do so.
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Yesterday, as I was packing up pairs of Passover socks and a Jewish Wisdom Magic Eight Ball, token gifts for the finder(s) of the afikomen, I was thinking about how much of today’s preparation would happen before they arrived.
I started humming Rabbi Joe Black’s song about the afikomen, “Afikomen Mambo,” and went digging around in the basement storage area for the carton of CDs, and found Aleph Bet Boogie. Realizing I had no way to play the CD, I queued it up on Spotify so I could sing along while setting the table today.
May the memories of childhood Passover celebrations animate our joyous Seder tonight and may the taste of the afikomen be sweet in our mouths past midnight.