afikoman - Matza Brawl

Written by הרב דניאל קירש, 11/4/2019

Matza Brawl

Rabbi Eliezer says that we ‘steal’ matza on seder night, in order to keep the children from sleeping. (Gemara Pesachim 109a)

The air was festive in the Zalman family’s house. The children sat around the table, eagerly awaiting the point in the seder at which they would have the chance to find the afikoman, and win an exciting prize. Before the hunt began, Mr. Zalman announced “whoever finds the afikoman wins a new bike!”

That was all the children needed to hear. Within seconds, six chairs slammed against the wall, and twelve pounding feet raced off to find the missing matza. The minutes ticked by, as the children searched furiously.

Suddenly, something caught Ido’s attention. There was something funny about the fish tank. He looked again. There, floating on the surface of the water, inside a plastic bag, was the afikoman pouch!

“I found it!” Raffi exclaimed in surprise. “I found the afikoman!”

Ido, who was standing nearby, swiftly took the cover off of the fish tank, removed the bag, and handed it to Mr. Zalman. “You saw it, Ido, but I gave it to Abba, so I get the new bike!”

Is Ido correct? Does the prize go to him, because he gave the afikoman to his father, or does the prize belong to Raffi, who actually located the afikoman?

Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:

Despite the fact that Ido grabbed the afikoman first, the two brothers must share the prize.

Firstly, it is unclear what Mr. Zalman’s intention was, when he said that whoever finds the afikoman first wins a prize. Perhaps he intended to say that whoever finds the afikoman first, regardless of whether or not he grabs it first, is the winner. Or, perhaps, he intended that the one who grabs the afikoman first is the winner.

Secondly, because Ido saw the afikoman only because Raffi found it, it is proper that they should share the prize. This is similar to the laws of shadchanut (marriage matches), regarding which, if one person suggests a match, and another person carries out the legwork of seeing the match through, the two of them share in the fee paid by the couple.

In summary: The brothers should share the prize. It is recommended that the father buy two prizes. The fact of the matter is that the primary purpose of the search for the afikoman is to keep the children from falling asleep at the seder, and it shouldn’t matter so much who wins a prize.

We will add a comment from the Rishon Letzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, zt”l, regarding prizes given for afikoman:

It is proper to encourage children not to request prizes which have no significance, such as games, and the like. Rather, they should be encouraged to request meaningful prizes such as Jewish books.

Several years ago, a boy requested a special afikoman prize from his father. The boy asked that, for his bar mitzva, the father buy him high level tefilin, “like Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has.” The next day, the father approached me, and told me about his son’s request. I referred him to the person who sold me my tefilin, and instructed the father to carry out his son’s request.

Another boy requested that his father set aside an hour every Shabbat, to learn together with him.

Prizes such as these are appropriate to request.

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