Why Do We Hide The Matzah On Passover?
The famous Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote, “ If there’s a gun on the wall in act one, scene one, you must fire the gun by act three, scene two. If you fire a gun in act three, scene two, you must see the gun on the wall in act one, scene one.”
What is the story of the Afikoman?
At the beginning of the Seder, we break the Matzah and hide the big piece away. Only for it to reappear at the end of the meal, brought to us by the children. What is the meaning behind this custom? Why do we hide the matzah?
One More Question
Before we answer this question I need to ask another one. At the beginning of the Seder we call out Ha Lachmaya Anya- this is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Later in the Seder, Rabban Gamliel teaches that the reason for Matzah is because the bread did not have time to rise. So which reason is it? Is Matzah the bread of affliction or redemption?
Answers To The Questions
The answer is in fact both. The primary focus of the Seder is to show how this dry bread, which was the symbol of slavery was transformed into the symbol of freedom. We will tell the story of this bread. The Seder begins with the strange ritual of Yachatz. We break the Matzah and the larger piece is placed into a bag which is hidden away.
We then use the broken piece of Matzah as the focal point of the story. We point to it throughout the Maggid (storytelling) section as we retell the story of the slavery, the miracles of the plagues and finally the Exodus and our freedom.
By the time we reach Rabban Gamliel we have transformed the Maztah into a symbol of freedom. However, so many questions still remain. As much as we have spoken about the story, there is so much which is hidden from view.
What Is The Meaning Of The Afikoman And The Hidden Matzah?
At the end of the meal, we reveal the full picture of what has transpired. Suddenly all the questions are answered. We now can see the full picture. Only at the end of history, will all the points become clear. As such, it is only then that we can fully appreciate the story of the Matzah. When the Tzafoon –the hidden- is revealed.
When we can finally see how all the parts of the story come together then we can bless Hashem- Barech, Praise Him -Hallel and be satisfied in the knowledge that we have gained from the evening – Nirtzah. The end three steps of the Seder- highlight the joy we feel when we finally understand the story of Jewish History.
We begin the Seder by breaking the Matzah. For as much as we know, we can only see a very small part of the story. As we journey through the Seder we start to see a transformation and this is completed at the end of the meal.
It is interesting, that the custom is for the children to search and find the missing piece. It is their innocence and simple belief that everything will be fine, that helps the adults achieve the clarity that they seek.