When bereaved of one’s parents, a person typically experiences great shock. But when Eli Shorowitz lost his mother nothing could’ve shocked him more than what he uncovered while clearing out the family home. When he removed the painting above the fireplace, out fell the afikomen he never found 46 years ago.
Out fell the afikomen he never found 46 years ago.
“This has driven me nuts!” said Shorowitz. “I knew it had to be here somewhere.”
Even decades later, many people never give up the hunt. Shorowitz was one of the rare, fortunate people to find the original matzo. He states, “Ever since the afikomen hunt of 1964, I’ve felt something crucial missing from my life. Passover became a very depressing time for me. At least now I have closure. I can get on with my life.”
On Passover, Jewish children joyously anticipate the hunt for the hidden matzo as well as the prize for which it’s redeemed. For some, the missing piece is never found. The result is often children who feel like outcasts among their peers. As Chava Feldman articulated, “My friends got chocolate, finger puppets, sesame candy. Me? I got bupkis. If that night is different from all other nights, for those who never find the afikomen, it’s not just different; it’s the Twilight Zone.”
Households where afikomens remain elusive often breed adult children who experience a profound sense of emptiness. “What is it with our parents anyhow?” asks Feldman. “Why would anyone hide the afikomen inside the trash can?”
Others have placed afikomens inside office equipment. One teenage boy, who asked to remain anonymous, stated, “It was bad enough not finding the afikomen, but then my dad, not knowing where my mom hid it, tried to use the fax machine a few weeks later and got an error message that said, ‘Check paper tray. Then pass the charoses.’”
Afikomen sightings have increased in recent years, some dating back as far as circa 1956. They show up at thrift stores in coat pockets, tool boxes, taped to the undersides of tables, even inside containers stored in attics.
Amy Gold, after purchasing a home from a retired couple, was planting vegetables in the backyard when she unearthed a linen cloth containing matzo. “Imagine my surprise,” she said, “when I dug a hole to plant tomato seeds and unburied yesterday’s dessert. What were these people thinking? That crackers would sprout?”
Other mishaps occur when the afikomen is discovered by someone for whom it isn’t intended. Lara Cohen states, “At first, my mom didn’t believe me when I told her the dog ate the afikomen—not until the evidence came trotting into the kitchen with crumbs hanging from his mouth.”
The great majority of afikomens are found, but some are hidden too well. Ironically while it’s usually the children who fidget during seders, when the afikomen is delayed, the adults are the ones who say, “I’m bored! How much longer?” One woman confided, “It took my kids almost 72 hours until they found it. That’s longer than it took to birth all four of them.”
Professional assistance is available to help process these feelings of sadness and deprivation. Joseph Daniels, a therapist who specializes in “Obsessive-Compulsive Afikomen Disorder,” has observed a sharp increase in patients exhibiting symptoms of “checking behavior.” He states, “They check and recheck under sofa cushions, behind the couch, inside kitchen appliances, and other random places. They can’t seem to abandon the hunt for the elusive afikomen.”
Daniels facilitates a growing support group in which he conducts mock afikomen hunts in the hope that sufferers will attain the success that eluded them as children. Since then, chapters of Adult Children of Lost Afikomens have cropped up all over the country. Daniels warns, however, that some get addicted to the search. When and if they find the original afikomen, the initial ecstasy often gives way to a new form of emptiness. “My patients ask, ‘What will I do now that the hunt is over?’ They struggle to replace that activity that drove them, that added meaning to their lives. I also offer hunt bereavement sessions.”
To obtain more information, go to www.lostafikomen.com. Until then, be well this Passover season and may all your afikomens come through.