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The Rebbitzen & The Secret of the Afikomen!
“I shall send you Elijah the prophet , before the great and awesome day of HaShem. He shall restore the hearts of fathers to children and the hearts of children to their fathers”
-The Haftorah of Shabbos Hagodol
During Tzafun, we finish off our meal with the Afikoman, the larger half of matzah we hid away earlier in the seder during Yachatz. While our ideas of dessert may include sherbet ice cream, fresh fruit or a piece of cake, the lingering taste of food which remains in our mouths is that of matzah.
There are two questions which must be addressed upon reaching Tzafun. Firstly, why do we eat matzah again? Moreover, why do many have the custom that the children search for the Afikomn?
The Afikoman symbolizes the Paschal sacrifice. Four days prior to the Exodus from Egypt, each Jewish household took a lamb, the animal deemed holy and worshipped by the Egyptians, and tied it to their bedpost to be used for the Paschal offering. On the fourteenth of Nissan, the Jewish people publicly roasted their lambs, which were consumed later that night. Nowadays, however, with no Temple, the Afikoman is eaten in commemoration of the Korban Pesach which used to be eaten on this very night all those years ago.
When will we have the Paschal sacrifice again? When we have Mashiach. When will he arrive? This is what Tzafun (lit. hidden) comes to address. The time of his arrival is hidden. However, as the Navi tells us, it is the children who will herald his forthcoming. “Behold, I send you Eliyahu the prophet…and he will turn back to Hashem the hearts of fathers with their sons…” (Malachi 3:23-24)
In this last generation before Mashiach, children will awaken their parents and inspire them to return to Torah. And indeed, many parents will follow their children and join the observant ranks of Klal Yisrael. As the above verse Indicates, it is through the sons that the hearts of fathers will turn back to Hashem (Rashi ibid.) It is therefore the children who search and find the hidden Afikoman, symbolic of the Paschal sacrifice and Temple times, for it is they who will spur the Jewish nation to repentance and usher in the redemption. And when that is achieved, we can rest assured that Eliyahu HaNavi and Mashiach are just around the corner.