Finding it is even more exciting. Not only is many a parent held to ransom by a child who attaches a price to giving the afikoman back, but sometimes an enterprising child or two will produce a fake, rival afikoman and the wisdom of Solomon is needed to identify the real thing. There are, however, other customs which do not involve hiding anything at all.
Medieval Spain had a custom, followed to this day in some homes in Jerusalem, of placing the piece of matzah designated as afikoman on the shoulder of a young boy who would leave the room and return almost immediately. There would then follow a dialogue.
“Who are you?” he would be asked. “I am a Jew!” “Where do you come from?” “From Egypt!” “Where are you going to?” “To Jerusalem!” “What are you carrying?” “I am carrying a matzah!” And the Seder would proceed.
This exemplifies a fascinating point made by Dr Isaac Breuer. He says the Seder ensures that ancient history can never be merely history. The events of the Exodus are never merely national memory. The great figures of the Bible will never be relegated to the archives. Events, experiences, individuals all come to life. We are living their lives: they are living ours. Not only our ancestors came out of Egypt: we ourselves did. It is not only they who carried matzah on their backs: we do too.
Nothing is past tense: Jewish experience is constantly lived and re-lived.
From it constantly comes a message – as Emil Fackenheim likes to say, a commanding voice. The voice that emanates from the moment of carrying matzah on our backs says, “Enjoy your freedom to decide where you are going, but work to ensure that every other human being has the same freedom!”
It says, “Enjoy your matzah and sing your songs, but exert yourself to ensure that every human group can also sing their songs without fear”.