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What is the afikomen?

On the eve of the holiday, on the night of Seder, when we go around the holiday table, we will sip four glasses of wine, we will eat and not olive oil, we will sing and sing, and we may not know or will have difficulty knowing about the thanksgiving of the quasi-pagan context of the holiday's laws and customs on that holy evening, and in particular about the afikomen

Afikomen Photo: shutterstock
Afikomen Photo: shutterstock

On the eve of the holiday, on the night of Seder, when we go around the holiday table, we will sip four glasses of wine, we will eat and not olive oil, we will sing and sing, and perhaps we will not know or will have difficulty knowing about the thanksgiving of the quasi-pagan context of the laws of the holiday and its customs on that holy evening, and in particular about the afikoman, when every One of us, the "generation of founders" surely remembers in his childhood and youth the affair of the afikoman, the hiding, the frantic journey to find half of the matzah and demand the return, i.e. the gift. Did the children and boys of our ancestors also have the same experience? probably not.

To the question and to clarify what the afikoman is, the answer will immediately arise: the same matzah that is divided by the organizer of the Passover Seder, when half of it is left and half is spoiled, it is hidden, and turns into a kind of game of hide and seek among the children who wish to reveal half of the matzah and in return request/demand compensation in the form of some kind of gift. This custom, as problematic as it can be interpreted and our interpretation due to the effect of the pressure exerted on the organizer of the seder to accept the find in exchange for some kind of "favor", and perhaps a kind of suspicion of theft lies in it, is a more accepted custom among the Ashkenazi community, and is a kind of festive attraction of the seder laws.

There is an assumption that the origin of the custom is in Barita in the Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim XNUMX p. XNUMX) which is worded as follows: "Tanya Rabbi Eliezer says: Steal unleavened bread on the nights of Passover for babies who are not sleeping." There were probably those who thought that the aforementioned kidnapping was connected to a kind of theft or exposure, considering the following mitzvah in the offense, and this is because the organizer of the seder fulfilled one of the mitzvahs in order to eat on some "poverty bread" which is eaten as a slice and not as whole bread, and the remaining half is usually left to the afikoman, And around this, as mentioned, the custom of stealing the afikoman and receiving promises of a gift in exchange for the return of the matzah developed.

Some claim that the origin of the word "Afikomen" consists of a pair of Aramaic words: "Afiko", which means take out and "man" which means food. And the prohibition that appears in the Mishnah (Pesachim 8:XNUMX): "There is no meftirin after the Passover Afikomen", meaning in the above context: one must not take out and offer additional foods after eating the Passover sacrifice.
The origin of this custom, it is claimed, is the eating of the Passover sacrifice at the end of the night while the Temple existed and the sacrifice would have been eaten with matzah and the prohibition emphasized the instruction that nothing should be eaten after it.

The origin of the custom, its meaning and manners must be sought elsewhere, namely in the Greek vocabulary which penetrated the ancient Hebrew language and were very numerous. And if we locate the origin of the name and its origin, we may be exposed to a festive phenomenon that is completely different from the custom of "theft" and the aforementioned gift requirement. Hundreds of years of history of Greek-Hellenistic rule followed by Roman-Latin, which was also deeply immersed in Greek culture, directly and indirectly assimilated the use of Greek words, some in a distorted way and some even close to Greek-Hellenistic phonetics, and in this field of linguistic research it is necessary to look for the The meaning and significance of the term "Afikomen".

In this field, various haters were involved, including Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who defined the origin of the Afikomen as the Greek "Afikomios" which means "a feast of joy on holiday days", Hanoch Albek, the editor-in-chief of the Mishnah literature, who saw in the Afikomen an expression of the after-dinner feast saturated with poetry and music, wine and various types of poetry and writing The New Hebrew Dictionary and its editor Avraham Ibn Shushan defined "Afikomen" as a meal dessert, we mean custard, and in general they came to an interesting conclusion that the origin of the term "Afikomen" is rooted in the Greek language and its meaning: a meal dessert, a feast that was held after the meal, and maybe even related to the Greek "Komon" The mythological trustee in charge of feasting and procession.

Moreover, if we turn to the Greek nomenclature, we will find it difficult not to notice a completely phonetic connection between the "epikomen" and the Greek "epikomos" (in Latin transliteration - epikomos), or "epikomon" (in Latin transliteration - epikomon) which is clearly the mythological guardian of the singing and the procession. "Komos" in Greek means a rural festival, a cause of joy, a procession through the streets of the city or village of torch-bearers, songs, dances and dramatic pieces of drama and let's not forget that these were an integral part of comedies such as those of Aristophanes. And hence the "tail" of the expression "Afikomen" meaning "Kumon" connects well substantially and certainly phonetically with the term "comedy". And we note that the head of the concept "Epi" and in Greek in Latin transliteration epi means: near, around, close to..., above and more, which gives an adequate expression to the subject of the drama and in this case to the theater and within it especially to the comedy.

From this it is difficult not to connect with the Greek worship of Dionysus, the god who personified the cycle of nature and especially spring and fertility in nature, in whose honor dozens of comedy shows were held at the time, and who had a very strong affinity for vines and wine, feasts and feasts, music, theater, poetry and the combination of eating meat and drinking wine for rent. And these expressions and customs were found to be known to us in connection with the "Afikoman" in the literature of the Sages, as we will immediately present below.

All this and more regarding this Dionysian context, since Passover as a whole symbolizes spring, in terms of new beginnings and is also called the Spring Festival, and the month associated with it is called "Spring". Also, the entire Passover order is combined with drinking wine and eating the meat as a symbol of the Passover sacrifice, and it has sections linked to theatrical aspects and not to mention great enthusiasm and joy.
As well as Passover, and especially its eve - the night of the Seder, falls in the middle of the month when the white is full, when this date, as is customary in other ancient holidays, including those of the nights of the Greek Dionysus or the Roman Cachus, fell in the middle of the month. And you have another link connecting Seder night and Dionysian events.

And what about the appearance of Dionysus in our sources. Well, his name can be found in many analogical and paraphrasic midrasims, and I would not be surprised if at least some of the "faces" (reliefs of faces at the entrance to urban synagogues) that appear in Sage literature are nothing but the facial features of the aforementioned "Glorious God".

In any case, it is appropriate to confirm our claims with archaeological findings. Well, in synagogues on a mosaic floor appears none other than Dionysus. His image is implied in the zodiac mosaic in the ancient synagogue in Beit Alpha. And in a bird's eye view, a drinking contest between Dionysus and Heracles appears on the mosaic floor at the feast they attended, and the by-product of that contest was that both of them got very drunk. It should be noted that Zipori, the majority of whose inhabitants were Jews, was one of the two capitals of the Galilee (next to Tiberias) and the honored seat of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and his Sanhedrin, before of course the presidency and the Sanhedrin moved to Beit Shaarim and there in Zipori Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi signed the Mishnah. It is also not for nothing that a Greco-Roman theater was built near the aforementioned building.

Please turn to the conventional, non-conventional and Talmudic sources to find out, as much as possible, the meaning of the afikomen.

In the Mishnah, in tractate Pesachim 8:XNUMX, we read as follows: "And there is no meftirin after the Passover afikomen. Some of them will sleep and eat (some of the members of the "group" who slept and did not watch over the Passover sacrifice will eat it since the rest of the "group" did not distract themselves from it). All of them, they will not eat (if they sleep all the time and are distracted from Passover, then it is invalidated). Rabbi Yossi says: Let's doze off (even everyone sleeps lightly) and eat. They will fall asleep, they will not eat (everyone is in a deep sleep).

The above interpretation is from the pen of Hanoch Albek (the editor of the Mishnah), when he gives his opinion on the matter: before us is "a feast that they used to hold after the meal with wine and various sweetmeats and sing various songs at it and they used to go from group to group to continue their drinking and debauchery." And it is hard not to connect this source with the Greek-Hellenistic Dionysia and of course the Roman Bacchanalian.

The Tosefta (Pesachim 11:22) also has its say: "There is no meftirin after the Passover, such as nuts, dates, and kidneys, and a person must practice the laws of the Passover even between himself (individually), between him and his home (in his family), between him and his student (as a couple)" . And in another place (Pesachim XNUMX:XNUMX), the Tosefta testifies that "the Passover of Egypt (the historical, ancient one) is full of song and (even) the Passover of generations (until the days of the Tosefta at least) is full of song."

The Jerusalem Talmud refers to Afikomen in this way (Pesachim chapter XNUMX, XNUMX, p. XNUMX): "From which Afikomen? Rabbi Simon in the name of Rabbi Inayini bar Rabbi Sisei (says:) Mini Zemar. Rabbi Yossi said: A kind of sweetness".

And the Babylonian Talmud claims that "May Afikoman? A rabbi (the head of the Surah community in Babylon) said - that they should not be displaced from one group to another. And Shmuel (Bar Haplogta Shalu, head of the Nahardea community in Babylon) said - such as Ardilai (lamb) for me and Guzaliya (dove) for father (a variety of food and sweetener), and Rabbi Hanina Bar Shila and Rabbi Yochanan (the Tiberian) said: such as dates, bran and nuts... The donut, the dubashnin, and the ice cream, (that) a person fills his heart with them."

If we summarize the articles of the Taniim and Sages cited above, it is claimed that the afikomen, which has Greek-Hellenistic phonetics in its origin, combined within it a kind of singing and revelry, perhaps with an amusing, almost theatrical dimension from the accepted meaning of the term "Afikomos" or "Afikomon" alongside a sweet dessert and an evening meal as well as part of the feast. And it is not impossible that the custom was connected in one way or another to the "rental" Dionysia.

And as for singing and singing as part of the above-mentioned revelry, it seems that the custom was drawn from the laws of the public Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem by King Josiah after his famous Jewish reform, as written in the Book of Chronicles 15 la XNUMX: "And the poets of the sons of Asaf on their status according to the commandments of David and Asaf and Heman and Yeduton …”.
The musical and vocal accompaniment is mentioned in the external literature, such as in the Book of Jubilees (Mt 6) where the Egyptian Passover is described in a paraphrase of the Hellenistic era that Israel sat and ate the Passover and drank wine "and praised and sang a song" and so in the external book Wisdom of Solomon (9:1) - "that our ancestors sang when they came out of Egypt ” And so in Midrash Psalms Kig XNUMX.
And in this era, Philo of Alexandria relates that on the nights of Passover the Mesopotamians would say prayers and sing.

And returning to the aforementioned mishna in relation to "there is no meftirin after the Passover Afikoman" we are left to find out the essence of the term "a group". So who is the so-called "gang"? Pesach out of order? Acquaintances and neighbors at all? Or maybe something else entirely?
Well, in light of the circumstances of the text in the Mishnah, the Tosefta and the Talmud, in my humble opinion, the phrase "herd" should be associated as a technical terminus to express a group of guests, a hospital, something, usually young people towards whom a kind of covert criticism of customs at the end of the Passover seder is directed. Perhaps a group of young people, drinking some wine (after sipping the third and maybe even the fourth glass of wine, in any case, according to the above-mentioned Passover meal) who leave the guests in the order of Passover to simply "make merry" - to sing, to rave, and to drink, and according to the text the conditions were To go from group to group and continue the new visit with drinking and debauchery, and they are the ones who are the object of the term afikomen, and against them the Halacha comes out and says: "There is no maftirin after the Passover afikomen". In other words, at the end of the Seder meal, the blessings and the songs associated with the Haggadah, the Halacha "recommends" in the "heat" not to have a revelry (perhaps even a noisy one) and to riot perhaps something in the Dionysian style, but to go to sleep. And here, as well as in many other cases, we never learn about them. That is to say - from learning prohibitions on the prevalence and explosiveness of the festive, vocal custom of the young "guys" who might spoil the sanctity of the holiday.
And here, at this point of essence, a kind of causal and circumstantial connection is created, intersecting something with all the revelry surrounding the Dionysian customs of the Greek-Hellenistic culture that was well assimilated into the ancient Jewish culture and for this there are many documentary confirmations embedded in the literature of sages such as the permission to bathe, swim and in general to enjoy in the bath house of Aphrodite in Acre And even on Shabbat or earlier in the quasi-Dionysian and Donist procession that takes place in Jerusalem somewhere in 164 BC and seeks to symbolize the liberation of the city from the Hellenistic conqueror at the initiative of Judah the Maccabee (54 Maccabees XNUMX:XNUMX ff.).

In conclusion, I would emphasize that there is no difference between the term "Afikoman" and the half of the matzah that is recited in a kind of tef and exposed and the demand to "liberate" it in the fulfillment of a childish "kafir".

The translation of the word/term from Greek reveals before our eyes a completely different phenomenon from the story of the discovery of half of the buried matzah. The translation of the word while examining the sources of the Sages, the archaeological findings and the quasi-pagan cultural atmosphere, which permeated between the layers of the Jewish population in the ancient era, led me to the conclusion that perhaps-perhaps the origin of the custom of eating, drinking wine, feasting in general, singing and joy mixed with the spirit of playful youth And Hollat, does connect to Dionysias that existed in the ancient world and found some place in Jewish existence as well.

And perhaps-perhaps the customs of the "groups" at that time were like that of the "Trask guys" in the Land of Israel from 1917 onwards, led by cultural giants such as Avraham Aldame, Avraham Shalonsky and Alexander Penn, whose purpose was to "bring joy to the hearts of the residents of Tel Aviv" - at parties, In dances, parades and even in pranks such as locking the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff in his office.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

11 תגובות

  1. It is interesting to see that Judaism adopted many customs from the peoples around it and not only it, but every culture is influenced by other cultural customs. And the Pesach Seder is relevant to what Judaism has adopted, including the "after private" after the Seder.
    After all, the Haggadah, like the Bible, was not written all at once, but in layers, and there we can find parts with which we read Kaddish today

  2. thank you for your response. Do not mix customs rooted in many generations with the ancient sources. The origin of the word is Greek, as we find its counterpart in many other terms in the theological and Talmudic literature, therefore mixing the new with the old. The term is very close to Greek and Roman customs that the ancient Jewish culture was exposed to and adopted.

  3. A. According to the laws of Passover, as far as I know, the afikoman ends the meal and must be eaten before midnight, after which nothing is eaten. That's why it's not clear to me how things got to Bakhunalia and trips from house to house, etc. After the meal, it was only allowed to discuss the Passover issue..and the example of the students who found the rabbis discussing Passover laws all night appears. They didn't drink or eat. Appears in the Haggadah itself.
    B. The theft of the afikoman was intended to keep the little ones alert, and more customs were added to it according to the testimonies. Because the importance of the Haggadah for your son is the greatest in order. Since it is impossible to finish the meal without the afikomen, and it has to be done before midnight, a situation arises in which there is a negotiation with the boy who hid it, in exchange for the afikomen.

  4. And thanks again for your response
    In any case, the name Gamaliel hardly appears among European Jews, as for example in the literature of the Middle Ages.

  5. Regarding the name Gamaliel and the closeness to the presidential family, I am interested in what a Yemeni once told me that all Yemenis are from the tribe of Judah (and not from other tribes, as in other postcards). Perhaps this is related to the matter, since the privileged presidential family is from the seed of the House of David.
    post Scriptum.
    Regarding the afikomon, the formula of the Yemenites is a meme with a *full* dreamer (Afikomon) and so is Rambam's formula in the Mishnah, so it's not related to their pronunciation of the kemetz, but it's also a fascinating issue.

  6. And later, it is interesting that both the Yemenite and the Eastern European communities pronounce the punctuation of the pinch like a full or missing dreamer. And I remembered a line from the poem about studying the Hebrew Bible: "A handful of thousand or..." And I mean in my comment to pinch or my pronunciation at least that the word afikomen is in Sipa and not in Risha

  7. thank you for your response. The Yemenis have preserved many ancient pronunciations from the remoteness of their settlement. I would like to examine an interesting point in my opinion, and that is the relative explosiveness among Ada Zi to the name of Gamaliel, where the Jewish Presidency has been since before the Holocaust. And maybe it was all a migration/immigration of the presidential family or someone from it towards the Sinai desert and from there Timana. In my opinion, an interesting point and XNUMX relates to immigration to North Africa from after the destruction until the Diaspora revolt during the days of Emperor Trianus. Maybe…

  8. thank you for your response. In fact, it makes sense that there will be disruptions at times; But all I wanted to point out is that the Yemenis kept the original pronunciation "Afikomon".

  9. Hello Shavit. thank you for your response. The disruptions stem from the lack of a higher authority at that time, such as the Hebrew Language Academy. The disruptions were the result of popularization and biographical regionalism, and in the rest of the editing of the sources, the editor(s) decided to prefer one linguistic source over the other and the reasons(s) are kept with them
    In any case, it was not a "malicious hand" that preferred such a configuration over her friends, and we researchers have no choice but to examine it in the light of linguistic configurations and gays from relevant ancient languages. Even today, an example from the automotive world such as "Mitsubishi", "Kaya", "Porsche" and more of this kind pops up.

  10. The Greek words were not assimilated in a disruptive way into the Haszalite language. The source of the disruptions is in reading or copying errors of the hazal texts. For example, in our case, the Yemenis kept the original reading "Afikomon". The same thing happened with the word corridor, which appears as "prozdod" in ancient and Greek scripts (the mistake comes from an exchange between similar letters, delt and dash).

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