Changing Passover Customs

A look at some Pesach customs throughout history.

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Therefore, on Pesach the Rabbis forbade the Greek practice of a post-symposium procession from group to group, an "afikoman"that might lead people to eat from a Pesach sacrifice not meant for them.

So how, we may ask, did the Greek "epikomon" become today's matzah? The Talmudists Shmuel and Rabbi Yochanan understood the word "afikoman" to mean "dessert." They read the Mishnah this way: "It is forbidden to eat afikoman (i.e., dessert) after eating the Pesach lamb" since that is the last and most important item on the menu, and its aftertaste should remain in our mouth all night.

Later the term afikoman was applied to the special dessert that was mandated at the seder --matzah eaten in lieu of the bite of Pesach lamb that concluded the meal in Temple times.

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Rabbi David Golinkin

Rabbi David Golinkin, Ph.D., is president and rector of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he teaches Talmud and Jewish law, and he heads the Va'ad Halakhah (committee on Jewish law) of the Masorti, or Conservative, movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.

Noam Zion

Noam Zion is the Director of Shalom Hartman Institute's Resource Center for Jewish Continuity. He specializes in teaching Jewish Holidays, Bible and Art, and has edited several educational books for the Shalom Hartman Institute.