Monday, April 17, 2006

of afikoman, orgy, and mistranslation

evey pesach new ideas come up around the seder table.
i'll tackle two new ideas, one from my family seder (this post) and one from a seder with friends (next post).
my aba, taught us a bit more about the afikoman.
it says in the haggadah, ain maftirin achar haPesach, afikoman, literally "there is no end after the pesach, afikoman." which (i am told) is roughly as confusing in its original language, aramaic, as it is in english.
it is discussed in the Bavli, Peachim 119b.
the babalonian talmud was redacted in the sixth century CE. When the rabbis who discuss the ain maftirin achar... pasook, they had a severe handicap. they had little concept of the rituals on which the pesach meal is based. the seder meal is modeled after the symposium meal, common in helenistic culture. it made its way to the ancient near east with the greeks and was maintained by the romans. the rabbis of the bavli were no longer framiliar with the greek and roman practices. as a result they had some difficulty in explaining several aspects of the seder meal.
they didn't know what afikoman meant so the discussion in pesachim 119b ensued. they assumed that the afikoman was a food. of the three matzot two have the ritual function connected to motzei. the third however has no ritual function, so it must be the afikoman they concluded.
afikoman is obviously not a hebrew or aramaic word. it is as one might guess greek. and comes from the symposium meal. so what the hell is an afikoman? well its more than a piece of unleaven bread. to the greeks afikoman was not a foodstuff but rather a social ritual. once the eating and teaching phase of the symposium was finnished the assembled masses would burst into the home of an unsuspecting friend who had not attended the meal. they would drink heavily, party, and engage in orgiastic bahaviors. it was rather like an after party of epic proportions.
originally ain maftirin achar haPesach was an injunction against concluding the seder with drunken revelry (afikoman), as people would at a Greek/Roman symposium.

At some point there must have been a Helenized jew who knew exaclty what afikoman was. When it was time, i expect this guy must have been ready to go. boy was he in for a surpirse when the guys who had been reading the bavli said its afikoman time and proceeded to produce a piece of crusty matzah. bummer dude.

2 Comments:

At 4/20/2006 , Anonymous bgs said...

Zach, I'm surprised you did not know this lovely fact! It's a great one, and I brought it up at sedarim I've attended in the past few years.

 
At 4/21/2006 , Blogger ZT said...

bgs?

 

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