Gale Boyd wrote:
I have a question regarding the "afikoman" in the Passover seder. Is there any indication that it may have existed before the Temple was destroyed?
Dear Gale Boyd,
At the end of the Pesach Seder we eat some matzah. This is called the afikoman, which means "dessert."
Before the Temple's destruction, the afikoman was not a piece of matzah; rather, it was the Pascal lamb: On the afternoon before Passover, Jews everywhere came to Jerusalem and brought lambs to the Temple. A tiny part of each lamb was burned on the altar and the rest was eaten at the end of the Seder. (Hence the phrase "Please pass the Pascal!")
Ever since the Romans destroyed our Temple about two millennia ago, we do not offer sacrifices. So we eat matzah in place of the Pascal Lamb as a commemoration.
One of the reasons offered as to why it was replaced with matzah is that matzah represents the food of oppression. In a spiritual sense, until the Jewish People are once more able to offer up sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple we are in a state of oppression. That's the reason why the afikoman is broken in half, to teach us that we have yet to become "whole."
This is also one reason that we end the Seder with the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem." Why? Because our Seder is incomplete so long as it is missing those special mitzvot such as the Pascal lamb that can only be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Gale Boyd responds:
Dear Rabbi, Thank you ever so much!! This is the first cogent answer I've found in my research. I never expected such a prompt reply, nor such a settling one. I can stop pacing the floor over this now!