For children, it’s unquestionably one of the highlights of the Seder – hiding the afikoman. Some call it stealing the afikoman; some opine that doing so is inappropriate. But whatever it’s called, children love the little midnight game of hide and seek during the Seder.
This year, at the beginning of the first Seder, our four-and-a-half-year-old twins hid the afikoman with their older brothers. But they were long asleep before it was time to eat the afikoman. So, on the first day during the seudah, we made a mock afikoman, giving them a chance to hide a piece of matzah.
Towards the end of the seudah, Gavriel, one of the twins, told me that I had to look for the afikoman. When I asked him where it was, he replied that I had to look and he wouldn’t tell me. I asked him how I can look for it if he didn’t tell me where it was. He thought for a second and then replied that it was hidden inside a fold up bed upstairs. His older brothers were not happy when I came downstairs holding the coveted afikoman.
That night, the twins stayed up for the entire second Seder. (In fact, at 1:30 a.m., after we were finished, they still weren’t going to sleep.) This time, after they hid the afikoman, Gavriel’s older brothers warned him that he was not allowed to reveal the hiding place to me, even if I asked.
I was tired and wanted to proceed, but my wife gave me those eyes that told me that I was going to go look for it.
This time, Gavriel wouldn’t fall for my efforts to convince him to tell me where the afikoman was hidden. So I went into one of the bedrooms, smiled, and announced that I had found it. Gavriel had a confused look on his face, and immediately ran to his bed to check under the pillow where the afikoman was stashed. I followed him from a distance. A moment later, to the chagrin of my children, I again emerged with the afikoman.
The concept of our children hiding the afikoman and us, their parents, looking for it, contains a beautiful symbolism of one of our most important tasks as parents. Every child has unique qualities that make him special. As one educator once said, “every child has gifts. Some discover them later than others.” Very often, those qualities and talents remain latent and need to be recognized. Our task as parents is to search for the hidden afikoman within our children and to reveal it, particularly for our children.
The truth is that this idea is not limited to our children. We also have the responsibility to search for and reveal our own greatness and to recognize our own vital contribution.
Lag BaOmer is a celebration of the revelation of the hidden inner light. The days of S’firah mourn the fact that the students of Rabbi Akiva did not treat each other with adequate respect. They failed to recognize and respect the opinions and contributions of their colleagues. But Rav Shimon bar Yochai was able to elevate even the most mundane individuals.
The fires of Lag BaOmer, which light up the dark night, are symbolic of the light of Rav Shimon, which lit up the darkest of places and ignited the souls of the most distant and forlorn individuals.
In a sense, Rav Shimon bar Yochai revealed the afikoman of every person he encountered with genuine love. Even greater was the fact that he did not need to employ psychological tricks to do it.