Law & Order on Pesach Night: Dealing With The Afikoman – האם יש מקום לגניבת אפיקומן בליל הסדר?

A well known custom some people have at the Seder is that a youngster takes the Afikoman in the beginning of the proceedings after it is set aside, and then, later in the evening, when the time comes to bring out and eat that portion of matzah, negotiates its return with the Seder leader in exchange for some type of consideration.

The question is, however, if such practice is proper. Even though it is usually understood by most people as some type of game played with the kids, nevertheless, for various reasons, including the fact that some people refer to it as “stealing the Afikoman”, and stealing is viewed with abhorrence in the Torah, it has been the subject of strong rabbinic opposition by various great Torah leaders.

Recently, breuers2gether posted a synopsis of a shiur on the topic given last year by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א. As usual, רבש”ה presents a masterful survey of the practice and Rabbinic attitudes toward it through generations.

He shows us that an array of גדולי ישראל opposed, or did not accept the practice. Included in this group are giants like the Chavos Yair, Rav Yaakov Emden, the Chasam Sofer, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Shimon Schwab, and the Erlauer Rav/Rebbe (Rav Yochanan Sofer) זכר צדיקים לברכה. Additionally, he notes that a long list of Chasidic Rebbes did not allow it at their own seders.

It is true that some rabbis were more tolerant (some such are mentioned in this recent talk), and offered some creative ex post facto explanations for it. Since special means of keeping children engaged at the seder is an ancient tradition, some viewed it in that vein. However, there are other ways of keeping children involved, as taught by Rabbis over many generations.

As the custom is a relatively late arrival on the Jewish scene, and due to various objections raised with it, people may want to re-examine and rethink it, ע”פ דעת תורה. The idea is not to be a scrooge though. One could and should give special gifts to children לכבוד יום טוב in other ways.

Certainly, in the old country kids didn’t hold up the seder for the latest electronic game.

In the זכות of זהירות in ישרות, and proper practice of our great heritage, may we be zoche to גאולה שלמה במהרה בימינו, אמן.

בברכת חג כשר ושמח

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