Afikoman in light of its Hebrew origin

The Passover Afikoman in light of its Hebrew origin
PhD dissertation: Part II (pp. 322-357) of chapter III

Wojciech Kosek

This article was first published at
Academia.edu
on 18 April 2019, i.e., on Holy Thursday.

DOI of this paper:
10.5281/zenodo.3282221

Here it was published on Saturday, 20 April 2019.

Abstract

This paper shows the word ‘Afikoman’ as a compound Hebrew term, not a Greek one. The way to discover it was to analyze both The Hebrew Bible and The Tractate Pesachim X.8 in The Mishnah. Lexical and structural literary analyses of these Hebrew texts show Afikoman as the unleavened bread eaten not as a dessert at the end of the official supper in the second part of the Passover Seder, but as the central liturgical element of the third part. The Passover Seder has four parts, each of them connected with one of the four cups of wine.

Afikoman appears not as a symbol of the lamb-Passover. Consumption of it is not a fulfillment of the Lord’s order to eat the lamb-Passover with unleavened bread. Afikoman is an unleavened bread commanded by God to commemorate this time of Exodus which followed the consumption of the lamb-Passover, namely, the time of bringing the people out of Egypt by the Lord.

Table of contents:

Introduction.

1. Afikoman as ‘unleavened bread commemorating the liberation of Israelites from Egypt by the Lord.’

1.1. Introduction.

1.2. Hebrew words related to Afikoman.

1.2.1. יַחַץ – the dividing of the unleavened bread.

1.2.2. אֲפִיקוֹמָן as a Hebrew compound word.

1.2.3. צָפוּן – the hidden Afikoman – and בַּעַל צְפוֹן.

1.3. The literary structure of the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) versus the issue of Afikoman.

1.3.1. The structure of the law pericope and the ‘chronological sequence’ relation between its elements.

1.3.2. The structure of the law pericope and the ‘parallel arrangement’ relationship between its elements.

1.4. Conclusions.

2. The prohibition against offering ‘these opening the womb’ to the Lord during the Passover.

2.1. Introduction.

2.2. Comparison of orders and bans in the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) with their fulfillment in the Passover Seder.

2.3. The prohibition in The Tractate Pesachim X.8 in light of standard interpretations.

2.4. מַפְטִירִין – ‘these opening the womb,’ i.e., the firstborns.

2.5. Conclusions.

Summary

Introduction

In this article [1], we discuss fundamental questions connected with the Passover Afikoman. Lexical analysis of Hebrew texts, mainly that of The Hebrew Bible and The Passover Haggadah, will show an understanding of ‘Afikoman’ as Hebrew compound word [2].

In the text of The Haggadah, in the fragment with the wise son’s question, one can read a particularly valuable explanation, taken from Mishnah, from Tractate Pesachim X.8, namely:

וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמֹר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

The widely accepted contemporary understanding of this answer connects it with the custom of not-eating after consumption of Afikoman during the Passover Seder. How ancient are the sources of this conviction?

It was during the first two centuries after Christ when so-called Tannaim as the authors of the Mishnah laid the foundations for the Jewish tradition that was to become an unquestionable source of interpretation of The Hebrew Bible for the later generations of eminent commentators until the present day. About two/four centuries later, so-called Amoraim, belonging to two Jewish scholar centers, compiled two versions of Gemarah to establish an interpretation of Mishnah and to form The Talmud with it.

It seems to many contemporary commentators that this whole tradition claims an understanding of Afikoman as a dessert and the ban associated with it in Pesachim X.8 as a prohibition to consume any more after that part of the Passover Seder when its participants eat the dessert named Afikoman.

The scientists representing this interpretation understand the word ‘Afikoman’ as a Greek term, probably ἐπíκωμον, only written in Hebrew letters as אפיקומן.

In this situation, we have to answer several essential questions. They are as follows: Does this text certainly relate to not-eating after Afikoman? Are we not mistaken assuming that this is about opening the mouths and, as a result, about eating? Is the word ‘Afikoman’ really a Greek term? Moreover, the last question, a key one: is there no earlier, more ancient and more reliable interpretation source than The Gemarah for correct reading of The Tractate Pesachim X.8 in The Mishnah?

The general answer for the last question is: The Hebrew Bible is the most authoritative source of interpretation – the Hebrew text, but read with great attention and with the help of the computer program as a modern analysis tool!

The ancient origin of the Passover Haggadah text

As the previous researches proved [3], the Passover has four parts and has the logic of the four-part rite of the renewal of the covenant. It concerns the covenant made between God and Israel at the time of Exodus, and especially during their passage between the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds.

God and Israel made this covenant following an ancient four-stage scheme from around the 16th century BC. God has led Israel out of Egypt in four primary stages in order to meet the requirements of this covenant scheme at the same time.

In the third of these stages, God and Israel performed the fundamental act of entering into the covenant (so-called the act of cutting the covenant) [4] during their passage between the divided (cut) waters of the Sea of Reeds, in strict analogy to the passage between the halves of animals (cf. Gen 15:17). Prophet Isaiah described the act of dividing the waters of the Sea of Reeds as the act of dividing the animal: Rahab (Isa 51,9).

In turn, the first of these stages required the showing of the magnificence of God as a sovereign, so ten miraculous signs (plagues) paid the required role during the first step of the four-stage Exodus. Therefore, in the rite of the Passover, this first stage is represented, among other things, by the telling of the story of liberation and the recitation of the 14 miraculous interventions of God for Israel as the one being under His protectorate.

One should know, it was the ancient principle of the renewal of the covenant to recall all the works of a sovereign, which he performed for the benefit of the vassal until the day of that liturgical renewal and not just those before that special day of their covenant making.

As one looks at the first part of the “Paschal Haggadah,” one can easily understand that it is from Solomon’s time, since it yet mentions the Lord’s grace to build a temple in Solomon’s time, but does not mention His intervention to bring the Israelites out of Babylonian captivity!

Thus Solomon in his compilation of the “Paschal Haggadah” led the listing of God’s merits up to the grace associated with the building of a temple (cf. 1Kings 6). Successive generations up to the present seemingly did not dare to change this significant 14-point list of the Lord’s most notable works, which Solomon drew up taking into account, of course, only all that the Lord has done up to his time, not later.

It proves The Haggadah is from the time of Solomon, not from the second century after Christ, when the venerable authors of Talmud lived and tried to comment the text they have received in the legacy of Tradition from previous generations, beginning with the time of Solomon.

The in-deep analysis of The Haggadah and The Book of Exodus proves that it was somebody who knew political treaties and their literary structures that he wrote this text based on the ancient logic of thinking.

This man is Moses – God’s man, the adopted son of the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt around XVI century BC, wise and educated in the law of international relations.

Moses, on God’s command, recorded in the book what God did during the Exodus (cf. Ex 17:14). His record was to be a part of the Hebrew Bible in the distant future, including the Book of Exodus – it contains a hidden record of the four-stage Paschal ceremony as a reflection of the historical four stages of leaving Egypt and concluding a four-stage covenant between God and Israel.

Thus the Bible is the basis for the understanding of The Passover Haggadah and the celebration of Passover.

The plan of the research

As the first step in our research, we will perform lexical analysis in The Hebrew Bible to check if the term אפיקומן or any part of it is present here. Furthermore, the meaning of Afikoman as an unleavened bread of Passover – the feast commemorating the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt – can be investigated by analyzing very significant fragment of The Book of Exodus in The Hebrew Bible. This six-pericope whole is the place where the structure of the Passover ritual hides and where it appears as the liturgical realization of the six-stage Exodus and the six-stage ritual of the covenant-making between God and Israel at the same time [5].

As the second step, we must analyze the whole original sentence in Pesachim X.8, where the word מַפְטִירִין is. A biblical and structural study of the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) will be the base for this task. Why? Because it will show the strict connection between two structures – that of Seder and that of this pericope – and, in consequence, the place and the role of each of the laws of this pericope in a strictly defined order in the annual Passover. It will turn out that the last of these laws links with the word מַפְטִירִין.

מַפְטִירִין in Pesachim X.8 is an important word and the reason for the mistakes. Why? Because the root of this term (פטר) means ‘to open,’ so the translators and commentators understand it as ‘an act of eating’ for the reason that such an activity connects with an opening of the mouth. Lexical analysis of this sentence will explain it as a prohibition valid during the celebration of the Passover ritual to offer ‘these opening the womb’ (פֶּטֶר־רֶחֶם) to the Lord, in the exceptional opposition to the order contained in the law pericope.

An essential element in proving this thesis is the observation that the fourth part of the law pericope, Ex 13:1-16, contains two orders: to eat unleavened bread and to offer ‘these opening the womb’ to the Lord. However, the fourth part of the Passover Seder contains the first of these acts – the eating of the Afikoman – but not the second one. The prohibition expressed in Pesachim X.8 is the reason for this. Instead of that offering, there is the singing for the Lord – according to Ex 15:1-21 as the fourth part of the structure of the Ex 6:1-15:21.

The identification of analogies and differences between the commandments of the law pericope and their fulfillment in the Passover Seder is necessary not only for an understanding of the origin of the Passover rite but also for the proving the thesis of this article that Afikoman is a combined Hebrew word with a strictly defined meaning.

1. Afikoman as ‘unleavened bread commemorating the liberation of Israelites from Egypt by the Lord.’

1.1. Introduction.

The discovery of the logic of the Passover and its basic structure is so crucial that it is impossible to overestimate them to understand the Passover Seder. One knows from earlier studies that traditionally we divide Seder into 14 (sometimes 15) points. At the same time, one knows that drinking four cups of wine belongs to those activities of the Passover liturgy, which constitute its structure.

Therefore, it is necessary to appropriately divide 14 points of Seder and put each of them into one of four sets of ritual acts, each group connected with one of four cups. In this way, we divide the whole ritual into four main parts I, II, II, IV, each of them with a specific theme, different from any other.

Such an attempt I undertook in my earlier studies. Parts I and II were noted to be not strictly separable – probably the content at their boundary belongs to them both. The same applies to the boundary content of parts II and III. That is at least what the analyses carried out to that point allow us to state.

Earlier research has also shown the importance of understanding the Afikoman, consumed after the end of the official supper of the second part. We have found that it is not a symbol of the lamb-Passover. Consumption of Afikoman does not belong to the second part of the seder; it does not connect with the Lord’s order to eat the lamb-Passover. Afikoman is an unleavened bread ordered by God to commemorate this time of Exodus which followed the consumption of the lamb-Passover, namely, the time of bringing the people out by the Lord.

This conclusion is so important that two analytical issues – the analysis of Hebrew words associated with Afikoman and the analysis of the literary structure of the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) – will serve to its full verification. The first issue will systematically present what has only been included briefly in the previous research into the information of the individual fourteen points of the Seder. The second one will show the description of taking out unleavened dough by the Israelites (Ex 12:34-39) in two distinct but complementary dimensions: the place of this description in the structure of the law pericope, and its legislative function.

1.2. Hebrew words related to Afikoman.

Afikoman appears in the Passover Seder three times: the first one in the 4th point, the second one in the 5th point with the father’s answer for the wise son, the third time in the 11th point.

1.2.1. יַחַץ – the dividing of the unleavened bread.

The 4th point has the Hebrew name יַחַץ. The word being here is an apocopied (abbreviated) form of both the imperfect qal and the iussivus of the word חצה; the meaning of this form is divide [6]: at this point, the leader of the Seder is to divide the middle unleavened bread (matzah) into two unequal parts, the larger of which is to be hidden – it is Afikoman.

In Scripture, the word חצה appears almost always [7] in the meaning separate: Gen 32:8;33:1; Ex 21:35; Num 31:27.42; Judg 7:16;9:43; 2Kings 2:8.14; Job 40:30; Ezek 37:22; Dan 11:4.

Of particular interest are two [8] of these places, contained in the history of Elijah and Elisha in the second chapter of the Second Book of Kings:

8 Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water (אֶת־הַמַּיִם), which divided (וַיֵּחָצוּ), and both crossed over (וַיַּעַבְרוּ) on dry ground (בֶּחָרָבָה).

14 Wielding the mantle which had fallen from Elijah, he beat the water in his turn and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When Elisha struck the water (אֶת־הַמַּיִם), it divided (וַיֵּחָצוּ), and he crossed over (וַיַּעֲבֹר).

It is necessary to notice that separation of waters (הַמַּיִם identically in Ex 14:21 and 2Kings 2:8.14) of the Jordan River in both directions so that it was possible to pass through it on the dry ground (חָרָבָה identically in Ex 14:21 and 2 Kings 2:8) has it analog. Such event took place for the first time in the history of Israel’s exit from Egypt: the Sea of Reeds was so divided that the Lord’s people passed through on the dry ground with the water wall on their right and left sides. To describe the very act of passing between divided waters, Ex 14:21 uses a word different than 2Kings 2:8.14, however, in the hymn that praises the work of the Lord carrying Israel between waters, it uses it twice (see Ex 15:16: יַעֲבֹר)!

The noticed word identities are not the result of chance. On this basis, and because within the 4th point the leader of the Seder divides (וַיַּחַץ) unleavened bread to obtain Afikoman, one can conclude that the Hebrew word יַחַץ as the name of the 4th point of the Passover Seder designates some connection between the separation of the waters of the Sea of Reeds and the Afikoman. It is because within the 4th point the leader of the Seder divides unleavened bread to obtain Afikoman.

It is, therefore, necessary to analyze still other words to see if they also indicate such a connection.

1.2.2. אֲפִיקוֹמָן as a Hebrew compound word.

Within the 5th point of Seder, the leader should present all the laws and commandments related to the rite which they celebrate. He is to end this presentation of regulations with a ban on eating anything after eating the Passover Afikoman. The Hebrew word Afikoman, given without those vowel signs that were added to the Hebrew texts by the Masoretes about the 6th century after Christ [9], has the following form: אפיקומן.

Since the word with such vowels is not in the Hebrew dictionaries [10], one can assume that it is an artificially created word as a combination of two or more known Hebrew words. The Hebrew language scholars know that Hebrews commonly give names composed of two or more parts thus the sum of particular meanings yields the meaning of the obtained word; sometimes it is difficult to find all the original parts and their meaning. For example:

Absalomאֲבִישָׁלוֹם=שָׁלוֹם+אֲבִיYahweh is my Lord
Michaelמִיכָאֵל=אֵל+כָM+מִיwho is like God?
Jahdielיַחְדִּיאֵל=אֵל+יַחְדִּיGod is my unity
Azrielעַזְרִיאֵל=אֵל+עַזְרִיGod is my help

To discover the content of the Hebrew word אפיקומן, we implement a simple method: when one inserts the above ‘word’ into the Command Centre for WTM in BibleWorks 6.0 and press Enter, you get the message that there is no such word in the Bible. We should, therefore, remove the character at the left end of the word and press Enter again. While we repeat shortening and pressing Enter key, finally we get the word that appears in the Bible [11].

The application of this procedure gave a successful result: אפיק – bed (of river/stream); bottom (of the sea); pipe, canal [12]. This word appears in 19 places in the Bible: 2Sam 22:16; Job 6:15; 12:21; 40:18; 41:7; Psa 18:16; 42:2; 126:4; Song 5:12; Is 8:7; Ezek 6:3; 31:12; 32:6; 34:13; 35:8; 36:4.6; Joel 1:20; 4:18.

One should pay particular attention to the verse:

וַיֵּרָאוּ אֲפִקֵי יָם יִגָּלוּ מֹסְדוֹת תֵּבֵל בְּגַעֲרַת יְהוָה מִנִּשְׁמַת רוּחַ אַפּוֹ M2Sam 22:16

Then the beds of the sea appeared, the foundations of the earth were uncovered at the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of the wind of his wrath.

וַיֵּרָאוּ אֲפִיקֵי מַיִם וַיִּגָּלוּ מוֹסְדוֹת תֵּבֵל מִגַּעֲרָתְךָ יְהוָה מִנִּשְׁמַת רוּחַ אַפֶּךָ Ps 18:16

Then the bed of the waters appeared, the foundations of the earth were uncovered at Your rebuke, o Lord, at the blast of the wind of Your wrath.

Both very similar fragments refer to the separation of the waters of the Sea of Reeds, made by the Lord through the wind sent by Him, described as ‘the breath of His/Thy nostrils’ (רוּחַ אַפּוֹ) here and in the hymn sung by Israel after the passage of the sea (Ex 15:8). What is separated by the wind is expressed either by the word מַיִם (waters: Ex 15:8; Psa 18:16) or יָם (sea: 2Sam 22:16).

The analyzed term, therefore, has the appearance אפיקומן, where we underlined the word אפיק (bottom) as that already found. The last two letters constitute the word מָן (manna), so the analyzed word may have a form אפיקומן, which can be read as ‘bottom and manna’ because the middle ו means and. So אפיקומן means unleavened bread consumed by the Israelites on their way through the desert, sea bottom, and desert, i.e. on the way from the place of the Passover celebration in Egypt to the place where God began giving them manna (what happened exactly one month after they had started going from slavery – cf. Ex 16:1-15.35).

However, one can still read אפיקומן in another way: if one assumes that instead of ו it should be י, which is quite often mistake in the Bible [13], then the analyzed word has a form אפיקימן. Now, comparing the parallel texts 2Sam 22:16 and Psa 18:16, we can see:

In both cases, the word bottom is a singular noun in status constructus, but once written as אֲפִקֵי and the second time as אֲפִיקֵי; the difference is in the vowel I, which in the first case is short (.) and in the second a long one (יִ). Hebrew lexicons [14] state that status constructus of this noun may take the third form אֲפִיק which in relation to the second form has no final long vowel Eיֵ (cf. Job 6:15); this form is identical with the one hidden in the original word Afikoman (אֲפִיקוֹמָן) in Tractate Pesachim X.8, also in the form with ו replaced by י:Mאֲפִיקימָן.

In this form, one can see something more: אֲפִיקיָמן – bottom (אֲפִיק) of the sea (יָמ), with the word-forming ן added at the end [15].

Finally, one can conclude that ‘Afikoman’ in Pesachim X.8. can mean:

its bottom, manna [16]

manna is its bottom [17].

אֲפִיקוֹמָןאֲפִיקוֹמָןconsonants and vowels are unchanged
bottom and mannaאֲפִיקוּמָןאֲפִיקוּמָןhere וֹ is replaced by וּ
seabed + ןאֲפִיקיָמןאֲפִיקיָמןhere וֹ is replaced by י, T is moved under י

The morphological analysis does not cover the scope of research in this section. It is still necessary to outline the exegesis of 2Sam 22 and the parallel fragment of Psa 18 because of the commonly known comments [18] to both places do not mention the Sea of Reeds.

Therefore, in addition to the above argument (Ex 15:8, 2Sam 22:16 and Psa 18:16 reveal the same factor which caused the separation of waters: רוּחַ אַפּוֹ), it is worth noting other reasons for the correctness of understanding these fragments as referring to the exit from Egypt:

וַיִּרְכַּב עַל־כְּרוּב וַיָּעֹף וַיֵּרָא עַל־כַּנְפֵי־רוּחַ M2Sam 22:11

And He rode upon a cherub and flew, and He appeared on the wings of the wind.

The verb rode (וַיִּרְכַּב) has the same root רכב as the word chariot (רֶכֶב), appearing in the Book of Exodus 12 times [23] to present the power of Pharaoh’s army. In a poetical interpretation of the description contained in the Book of Exodus, David praises in 2Sam 22:11 the Lord, whose chariot triumphed over the chariots of the Pharaoh, plunging them into the sea abyss.

The term ‘the wings of the wind’ (כַּנְפֵי־רוּחַ) refers to two texts. First of them is the description of the passage through the Sea of Reeds, divided by the wind sent by the Lord (cf. Ex 14:21; 15:8.10). The second one contains God’s words spoken to Moses already at the beginning of his stay at Mount Sinai, to summarize this stage of Israelites’ process of liberation from captivity that has just ended.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you up on eagle wings (עַל־כַּנְפֵי) and brought you here to myself” (Ex 19:4).

♦ Fidelity to God, and in particular to His Law, was the reason why He saved Israelites and David. Because of the great importance of this aspect, the discussion about it will be in the next section of the article, where we will show the prohibition against offering ‘these opening the womb.’ However, we will perform earlier an essential supporting analysis.

1.2.3. צָפוּן – the hidden Afikoman – and בַּעַל צְפוֹן.

Point 11. of the Seder is named צָפוּן which means hidden. Traditionally one explains that Afikoman, hidden in the first part of the Passover Seder, has now been found and is, therefore, eaten. Although the time for fulfillment of this point is short, in reality, it is a highly important part of the Passover Seder. Its significance one discovers by the fact one point of Seder is to prepare and hide Afikoman (point 4 in part I), and different point (belonging to part III) is to find it and eat it. At the same time, the importance of Afikoman is emphasized: by a requirement to recline on the left side (or to lean oneself on the left arm or lie on the left side at the table). The same ritual posture applies when eating matzah and bitter herbs prescribed by the Law, in part I.

In the Hebrew Bible, there is no word צָפוּן. However, in Num 33:7 is an expression בַּעַל צְפֹן that secretly contains this word. This one, in the slightly modified spelling, appears in Ex 14:2.9 as – The Lord of the North. It is the name of the place near the Sea of reeds; the Israelites camped opposite it immediately before entering the uncovered bottom of the sea.

Since בַּעַל צְפוֹן contains the word צְפוֹן which differs from this Seder point name – צָפוּן – only with the first vowel and the position of the dot over the second vowel – signs added only six centuries after Christ by the Masoretes – this is not accidental.

Just as the Israelites in the place ‘The Lord of the North’ or ‘The Lord of the Hidden’ ate Afikoman, which is a piece of unleavened bread, not sour, like manna, so at the time of Passover their sons eat Afikoman now, at the point which name is ‘The hidden.’

1.3. The literary structure of the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) versus the issue of Afikoman.

The purpose of this point of the work is above all to show that the custom of eating the unleavened Afikoman in the Passover Seder does not belong to part II. It belongs to part III because it is a sign of the presence not of the feast preceding the departure from Egypt, but a sign of the exit of the Israelites with an unleavened dough from captivity.

The method of proof here will be the analysis of the literary structure of the law pericope, in the framework of which the hagiographer included a description of taking out of Egypt of the unleavened dough by the Israelites (Ex 12:34-39). The aim now is to show: To the text representing the law (some rules of preparing and eating the lamb-Passover), this description is in a parallel position in the structure of the pericope. Its legislative function, not only factual, will be shown as the result of these analyses.

At the beginning of these researches, it is especially important to distinguish between:

The first Passover feast had no structure; it was just the eating of the lamb-Passover. Each next feast celebrated in memory of the exodus had a specific structure.

This point of the paper presents the analysis of the law pericope. The law pericope was formed not in Egypt but later and received its final shape probably around the 6th century before Christ. Therefore, the structure of this pericope – as the analyses will show – hides not the structure of the Passover feast in Egypt (it had no structure: it was just the eating of the Lamb-Passover!) but the structure of the Passover feast-memorial of the whole exodus described in Ex 1-18; the wording ‘feast-memorial’ means that this feast makes this exodus present.

In the below-presented text, the analyses always refer not to the structure of the feast of the Israelites in Egypt, but to the structure of the annual celebration which makes the participation in the historical six-stage Exodus is a real fact.

1.3.1. The structure of the law pericope and the ‘chronological sequence’ relation between its elements.

Using the analyses carried out in the first chapter of the paper, one can see four fragments in the law pericope, beginning with the phrase Somebody said:

Leaving aside the details in the text, one can see that each of these fragments is composed of three essential elements, distinguished in Table 1:

 1234

 

 

 

The time before

eating the lamb

The time of eating

the lamb

and

after eating the lamb

The time of eating

the lamb

and

after eating the lamb

The time after

eating the lamb

God gives

the law of Passover,

presents His plan,

gives the law of

unleavened bread

(12:1-20)

Moses communicates

the law of Passover;

Israel fulfills

the law of Passover;

the plan is fulfilled

(12:21-42)

God gives

the law of Passover

(12:43-51)

God gives the law

of firstborns;

Moses communicates the law of unleavened bread and the law

of firstborns

(13:1-16)

1

law:

Lamb-Passover

(12:3-11)

law:

Lamb-Passover

(12:21-28)

law:

circumcision of those

who want to eat

the lamb

(12:43-45)

 

law:

consecration

of firstborns

to the Lord

(13:1-2)

 

2

plan:

killing of firstborns

(12:12-14)

plan fulfillment:

killing of firstborns

(12:29-33)

law:

Lamb-Passover

(12:46)

 

law:

unleavened bread

of departure

(13:3-11)

 

3

law:

unleavened bread

of departure

(12:15-20)

plan fulfillment:

Israel comes out

with unleavened

dough:

unleavened bread

of departure

(12:34-39)

law:

circumcision of those

who want to eat the lamb

(12:47-49)

law:

consecration

of firstborns

to the Lord

(13:12-16)

Table 1

‘Description of the carrying out of the unleavened dough by the Israelites’ (Ex 12:34-39), which is of particular interest in this point of the research, is at the bottom of column 2.

The table shows that:

three times occurs each of the following issues: lamb, unleavened bread;

six times in total

two times occurs each of the following issues: the killing of firstborns, the order to circumcise those who want to eat lamb, the offering of firstborn;

also six times in total

The first group is food products, ordered for the feast preceding the exit (lamb) and for the time of going out (unleavened bread).

The second division also exists:

The second group connects with the outpouring of blood: of firstborn and of circumcised.

Looking at the biblical text represented by four columns of Table 1, one can see that only the first two columns are in the relation of the chronological sequence, that is:

In the history of Exodus, the events described in the biblical text of column 1 took place first and after them that depicted in the biblical passage of column 2:

The order of subjects in the first section corresponds to the history of leaving Egypt. The same is valid for the second section:

When the Israelites had started the feast and were eating the lamb-Passover, the Lord killed the firstborns of Egypt. After it, they came out with unleavened dough and were baking unleavened bread during the way.

It was God Himself who designed this ‘chronological’ literary arrangement because in His speech (section 1), being only a foreshadowing of events and of the act of granting the law, it is also preserved, as in section 2, which is the story of the realization of God’s foreshadowing. Table 2 shows this:

Section 1: Ex 12:1-20Section 2: Ex 12:21-42
God gave the law concerning the lamb.Moses gave the Israelites the law concerning the lamb; they fulfilled it.
God foretold the killing of the firstborns of Egypt.God killed the firstborns at the time when the Israelites were eating the lamb-Passover.
God gave the law concerning unleavened bread.The Israelites hurriedly brought forth only the unleavened dough out of Egypt. They were baking unleavened bread from it during the first days of their way.

An identical arrangement of both sections became possible due to the fact the hagiographer divided Moses’ presentation of the issues from the first speech of God (12:1-20) into two separate stages! In his first speech (12:21-28), Moses describes only the issues concerning the lamb; the laws of the unleavened bread of departure he undertakes solely in the second talk (13:3-11) which is in the fourth (the last one) section of the law pericope!

Thanks to this division, the hagiographer achieved the fundamental goal to merge the law pericope into a literary whole: this pericope closes at this Moses’ speech (the second) which completes communication to the Israelis the whole of the law given by God at the beginning of it. Simultaneously the hagiographer obtained also this ‘chronological’ literary arrangement of the first two parts of this pericope.

The reader of the analyzed pericope should understand the perceiving of its ‘chronological sequence’ structure is necessary for its correct interpretation. Looking at Table 1 and Table 2 it is easy to notice this sequence. But not only it.

As a result of the research carried out here,

we can formulate the following important rule:

The hagiographer always separated

the text concerning the lamb-Passover

from

the text concerning unleavened bread.

The hagiographer, therefore, highlighted two aspects of chronology:

The unleavened bread of departure represents a new stage of the history of Exodus – not the feast preceding leaving, but the very beginning of going out (and the whole way to the opposite side of the Sea of Reeds).

1.3.2. The structure of the law pericope and the ‘parallel arrangement’ relationship between its elements.

In the law pericope, four passages are beginning with the phrase ‘somebody said.’ There is, however, another structure in this pericope. One can see this structure only if one takes into account the meaning of the three characters of structure, omitted in Table 1.

Currently, during the analysis, it is necessary to notice the existence of:

Legislative

God’s speech,

then Moses’ speech.

Israel fulfills the law

which God gave her

through Moses.

Israel fulfills the law

which God gave her

through Moses.

Legislative

God’s speech,

then Moses’ speech.

1.

2.3.4.
12:1-27a12:27b-4212:43-5113:1-16

Legitimation of the law is not homogeneous.

These speeches

Worship as an acceptance of the law (12:27b)

Legitimation of the law is homogeneous:

with gratitude

play the role ofLeft point of inclusion:remember the God
an introductoryIsrael has fulfilledwho led Israel
explanation to the rules,the law (12:28=12:50) out of Egypt
before their fulfillment.וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה
את־מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן
כֵּן עָשׂוּ

What law did Israel

fulfill first?

Passover law!

Israel consumed

the lamb-Passover.

Only the circumcised are allowed to do it

(12:43-49)!

At midnight the Lord struck all the firstborns (12:29-33).

The Lord divided the time for the fulfillment of the law into two separate, substantially different parts!

What law did Israel fulfill after it?

The law of unleavened bread!

Israel was eating unleavened bread of Exodus (12:34-39).

Right point of inclusion:

Israel has fulfilled the law (12:50=12:28)

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָּל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה
אֶת־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶת־אַהֲרֹן
כֵּן עָשׂוּ

Summary:
Israel set off
from Egypt

12:40 is parallel to 12:41:

Summary:
The Lord has led Israel
out of Egypt

(12:5112:41):

וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה

וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה

בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

יָצְאוּ

כָּל־צִבְאוֹת יְהוָה

מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

 

וַיְהִי

 

בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

הוֹצִיא יְהוָה

אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם

עַל־צִבְאֹתָם

12:42: Summary of columns 2 and 3, which enables us to precisely determine does Israel obey the law which God has given through Moses.

This was a night of vigil for the Lord, as He led them out of the land of Egypt; so on this same night all the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord throughout their generations.

The time before

eating and leaving bondage

The same night is the time to eat:

  • first the lamb
  • then the unleavened bread of Exodus

The same night is the time of departure

The time after

eating and leaving bondage

The analogy to part I

of the Passover Seder:

preparation:

the telling of the story

about the way out,

the explaining of the

customs, laws, orders

of the Passover.

The analogy to

part II + III

of the Passover Seder:

the eating of

Lamb-Passover,

then

of Afikoman

(unleavened bread of Exodus)

The analogy to part IV of the Passover Seder:

Israel sings Hallel,

remembers the Lord

who with a mighty

hand brought her out

of Egyptian bondage.

Table 3.

First of all, table 3 shows the fundamental role of signs of structure, namely:

And it came to pass [at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – additionally at 12:41a], even the selfsame day it came to pass, that

all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.12:42b
the Lord brought the children of Israel out from the land of Egypt by their hosts.12:51b

The similarity of summaries makes us read both fragments parallelly. It is synthetic parallelism: the content of the first text (in the left column) supplements that of the second one (in the right column) so they both form the whole undertaking the issue of food-symbols obligatory at the time of the annual Passover.

Thanks to this parallel reading, it is not disturbing that the order of events presented in the Bible is not entirely historical: the text about the law of the lamb-Passover is not in the first position but at the last one.

♦ The meaning of verse 12:42 as a summary of not only column 2 but both columns 2 and 3, which is the result of the parallel reading of the meaning of the previous two groups. The literal translation of the text shows its remarkable emphasis:

“This was a night of vigil for the Lord, as he led them out of the land of Egypt; so on this night, the same night, just the same, all the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord throughout their generations.”

♦ The meaning of the description (12:29-33) of the Lord’s killing of the firstborns of Egypt also as ‘characters of the structure.’ It seems that its role in the law pericope is only to point to the legal difference between the time before and after this most significant event. However, is it just that? For now, we will not analyze the meaning of this description. At present, we should notice that it does not contain any prescriptions of law. Therefore, one can suppose none of the events included in this description has its representation in the Passover Seder. However, it is a false supposition! [25]

Table 3 shows also:

• In column 1 at the top, only the headword is: the speech of God and the speech of Moses are marked (Ex 12:1-27a: the God here proclaims the law of Passover, presents the plan of events and gives the rules of the unleavened bread; Moses communicates God’s Passover requirements to Israel).

The legitimation of the whole law of this column is not uniform. God gave one part of them so that He could kill the firstborns of Egypt while Israelites are eating the lamb-Passover; the next part is for Israel to remember the Lord led her out of Egypt. According to chronology, however, the whole of these speeches of God belongs to the time before the people fulfilled the lamb-Passover laws.

The legitimation of the whole law of this column is uniform: it is the need to remember with gratitude the God who led Israel out of Egypt. According to chronology, these speeches belong to the time following the People’s fulfillment of the laws of the lamb-Passover (from the first column).

 In column 4 at the bottom, it is indicated an analogy between the speeches of this column and the main subject of the fourth part of the Passover where the participants sing, with gratitude to God who led Israel out of Egypt, so-called Hallel, i.e., Psa 114 (or 115) – 118 and Psa 136, and after it various songs.

One should notice, however, that the analogy does not include the way of worship to God: in the Seder, there is no custom to offer ‘these opening the womb’ to the Lord.

One can see then, that the pattern for the structure of the seder is the arrangement not only of the law pericope but also of Ex 6:2-15:21 (composed of four central elements of the structure of Ex 1-18), where the fourth element is the singing of the hymn (15:1-21).

The structure of the law pericope serves above all to indicate the meaning of two inner parts of Seder, and consequently the sense of meals characteristic for each of them separately, namely:

In part II:the sense of the lamb-Passover eaten as part of the banquet before start-up of the departure from captivity
In part III:the sense of the unleavened bread of the departure, eaten as the food of start-up and of the way

Although the question of consumption occurs in each of the four parts of this pericope, only the middle ones (which are the whole enclosed by verses 12:28 = 12:50 as the literary inclusion) express the fact that the participants put the command to eat into action. Moreover, these two parts strongly emphasize the fact that all of them are strictly now leaving the captivity in Egypt.

Although the structure of the law pericope serves above all to indicate the meaning of the two inner parts of the seder, nevertheless, we can also see in this structure the features characteristic for all four parts of it [26]:

One should notice first of all that as in Table 1 the law pericope consists of four parts, the same as the Passover Seder.

The inner parts (2 and 3) differ from the outer (1 and 4) in terms of their logic. They vary in what they focus on, namely:

part 1: preparation for eating and exit

part 2: food and exit

part 3: food and exit

part 4: thanksgiving [27] for eating and exit

Therefore, there is a fundamental difference between the middle and outer parts:

  • the middle ones relate to consumption,
  • the outer ones associate with a proclamation (speaking or singing).

The same rule is in the Passover Seder!

What conclusion can we draw from the relations between the four parts of the law pericope presented here? It is significant to understand the role of the description of taking away an unleavened dough by the Israelites from Egypt (Ex 12:34-39).

Looking at Table 3 one can see this description is one of the two inner parts of the law pericope, framed only by the verses of the structure.

Everything that has been written above about the inner parts applies to this description and the promulgation of the lamb-Passover law, parallel to it. On this basis, we can see the ‘description of taking out the unleavened dough by the Israelites’ (Ex 12:34-39) has a legislative function in the law pericope. It has the same rank as the legal orders concerning the eating of the lamb-Passover.

‘Description of taking out unleavened dough by the Israelites’ (Ex 12:34-39) is a law that requires to eat the unleavened Afikoman in the third part of the Passover Seder. It is a law of the same rank as the order to consume a lamb-Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in the second part of the seder.

1.4. Conclusions.

The linguistic analyses carried out, and the understanding of the Passover Seder allows us to notice that:

a.

Because Afikoman, according to semantic analysis, contains words:

  • ‘bottom of the sea’ (implicitly: the Sea of Reeds, since the name of the seder point where it is consumed sounds צָפוּן – hidden – which relates to the name בַּעַל צְפוֹן, the place where the Israelites crossed the very sea),
  • ‘manna’ (which is a sweet, and therefore non-acid food, analogous to flour or unleavened dough),

that is why Afikoman is ‘unleavened bread of departure’ – departure towards the Sea of Reeds and through it to its opposite side – the side of freedom.

b.

One eats Afikoman in the Passover Seder in remembrance and honor of the Lord who did the act of killing the firstborns of Egypt, led His people out of the place of the lamb-Passover eating and then led caringly towards freedom along the road that led through the Sea of Reeds divided by His power. One eats Afikoman with gratitude for the grace of food which the Fathers had enough for the whole way and especially for the most dangerous part of it – when the Egyptians pursued them to the other side of the Sea of Reeds, near בַּעַל צְפוֹן;

one eats Afikoman in remembrance of the march of Israel with a dough not yet acidified from the place of eating the lamb-Passover in Egypt. Along with the prayers of thanksgiving and supplication addressed to the Lord, Afikoman is a sign of the presence of the miracle of Exodus in each year. At the same time, it is an announcement of the arrival of Elijah and Messiah, expected each year; under their guidance, the Lord will lead His people into eternal life.

The same meaning of Afikoman is ‘recorded’ in two interpenetrating structures of the law pericope, as well as in two, related to them, basic types of relations that exist between their elements.

Having noticed the relation of ‘the chronological sequence,’ we discovered the existence of the following literary rule: the issue of the lamb-Passover is always isolated from that of unleavened bread and in every situation is before it.

By this consequent separation, the hagiographer emphasized that the eating of the lamb-Passover is earlier than the consumption of unleavened bread of departure. The eating of unleavened bread with the lamb-Passover and bitter herbs cannot be confused with that of the unleavened bread of departure. The last one represents a new stage in the history of Exodus – not the meal preceding the exit, but just the going out (and the whole way that began with it). The unleavened bread of departure represents a different part of the Passover Seder than the unleavened bread eaten with bitter herbs.

On the other hand, having noticed the relation of ‘parallelism,’ connecting only the inner fragments of the law pericope, we discovered their exceptional importance, distinguished on the background of the other two parts. As a result, we could understand the meaning of the meals characteristic for each one of them individually:

In part II:lamb-Passover, eaten as part of the banquet of waiting for the departure
In part III:unleavened bread, consumed as the food of going out and of the way to freedom

One can see how the results of analyses of both types of relations are consistent in this respect.

Moreover, in both discovered structures of the law pericope, the similarity to the Passover Seder is evident: the number of fundamental structural elements is 4 in each of them.

Having discovered the literary structure of the law pericope, we must conclude that it is the literary pattern for the Passover Seder, and especially for its two central parts. The outer segments of this Passover model we must interpret with the help of another, more significant literary structure – the one of Ex 1-18.

The reading of the law pericope as a model for the inner parts of Seder indicates that the liturgical participants are to obey God’s command to eat the lamb-Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and after it, in the next part, the unleavened bread of departure.

Because nowadays there is not the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so one can not offer the lamb for Passover; in consequence, in Seder, we can observe an alternative form of fulfilling the first of these God’s laws:

In commonly available commentaries to the Passover Seder, one does not notice that eating of Afikoman is in commemoration of Israelites’ departure from Egypt, with unleavened dough. Therefore, one considers this important rite as the last act of part II of Seder. At first glance, this explanation is correct – both Afikoman and the whole part II connect with consumption. However, as we have seen above, it is not the correct explanation.

Eating of Afikoman is at the beginning of part III of the seder. The principal goal of this part is to thank the Lord for His love shown to Israel during the way from the place of the lamb consumption to that on the opposite side of Sea of Reeds – where Israel sang the hymn in His honor (cf. Ex 15:1-21). The manifestation and liturgical sign of Lord’s love is the unleavened bread with which He fed His people during this, peculiarly heavy, passage.

Part III of the Passover Seder is, therefore, a liturgical making present of the way from the place of lamb consumption to that of hymn singing.

Part IV makes present the Israelites’ singing of hymn for the gratitude to the Lord and His power; it is the hymn of fully liberated Israelites who are just on the opposite side of the Sea of Reeds!

This rite, belonging to the final part of the Passover Seder, has no source in the literary structure of the law pericope, but in that of Ex 1-18. We will talk about it in the next subsection. Earlier, however, we will address the problem that supplements the analyzes discussed now.

2. The prohibition against offering ‘these opening the womb’ to the Lord during the Passover.

2.1. Introduction.

The theme of 2Sam 22 and Psa 18 is the salvation of the psalmist from mortal enemies, especially from Death and Abyss (cf. Ps 18:4-6.17), the salvation made by God because the psalmist is faithful to Him, keeps His laws (מִשְׁפָּט) and commandments (חֻקָּה) (cf. 2Sam 22:23), and above all because God loves him [30].

Similar difficult situations and deliverance from them are in the history of Exodus.

God brought Israel out of captivity because He loves her, but also because Israel showed Him full obedience, fulfilling everything that He commanded her through Moses and Aaron, and what the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) describes [31].

Bearing in mind so amazing fruits of that original obedience of the Fathers, today’s Israel scrupulously tries to preserve all laws, regulations, traditions of the Passover so that the Lord may now lead her through the Abyss to freedom of life and His service in His Jerusalem and temple, so far lying in ruins. The Passover singing appeals to the love of the Lord, to the faithfulness of the Covenant, and begs Him to rebuild His temple and priestly sacrificial service in it as soon as possible.

To meet the task of fulfilling all the prescriptions of Passover, Israelites perform its celebration according to The Passover Haggadah, which mainly bases on the Holy Tradition, and in particular on Tractate Pesachim of Mishnah, and numerous references to the Hebrew Bible.

Tractate Pesachim, taken from Tradition, requires the fulfillment of all the laws of Passover contained in the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16), but states in sentence X.8 that the offering to the Lord of the firstborns (‘these opening the womb’: מַפְטִירִין) does not belong to the Passover Seder.

To correctly read this key sentence of the Treaty is difficult. Hence one can find many translations. Now we are ready to discover a new understanding, based on the previous analysis and precise lexical reading of the very text.

The prohibition of offering ‘these opening the womb’ during Seder is a highly important part of the Tradition of Israel. It testifies to the exceptional role played by the law pericope for those her saint representatives to whom God has commissioned in the ancient history of Israel to formulate the points of the Passover Seder (i.e., the order of its liturgy).

This prohibition stands as an authoritative statement that during the Passover Seder one of its rules written in the law pericope should be omitted. We are to understand that placing this prohibition among the set of authoritative interpretations of Tradition serves as proof that this pericope played a fundamental role for those who constructed the Passover Seder.

In this subsection, the analysis of the sentence with Pesachim X.8 serves to confirm the significance of pericope of law for the structure of Passover Seder. It is, therefore, a complementary aim to what we achieved in the previous subsection about the relationship between the structure of Seder and the law pericope. It is a essential task because it confirms those studies in a different method.

We will analyze this significant sentence Pesachim X.8, but only after summarizing all rules from the law pericope and indicating – at each of them – whether it applies in the seder or not.

2.2. Comparison of orders and bans in the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16) with their fulfillment in the Passover Seder.

In the law pericope the following regulations are included, grouped here thematically:

Are all these orders and bans implemented in the Passover Seder?

♦ The orders: to make circumcision, to hold a sacred assembly on the night of 15 Abib, to refrain from work – are scrupulously obeyed. The ban on leaving home on the night of 15 Abib was mainly imposed on the Fathers when God was punishing firstborns of Egypt. However, a trace of that prohibition is the custom of opening the door (until then closed!) within the third part of the seder, which makes present the departure from Egypt.

♦ The laws related to the lamb one must fulfill in a specific way:

The lamb itself is not present during the Passover, so one eats instead of it the food items one was obligated to eat with it. Thus one eats bitter herbs and unleavened bread. It is because nowadays is no temple in Jerusalem, so the Jews, citing Deut 16:1-8, rightly believe that they cannot comply with the commandment to offer the lamb-Passover to the Lord.

It is why the lamb is not present in Passover. It is represented by a small bone on a seder plate and by the custom of eating unleavened bread and bitter herbs in points 7, 8 and 9 of Seder – at the beginning of its second part (the feast / the covenant law).

One eats first solely the unleavened bread (usually the upper one with the half of the middle one; the other half is set aside as Afikoman), then bitter herbs only (customarily it is Maror dipped into Charoset), and finally the ‘sandwich’ made of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It is usually the lower unleavened bread, while bitter herbs – Chazeret, a different kind of herbs than before. The Haggadah points out that Hillel in the temple’s time consumed the lamb with matzah and bitter herbs to fulfill in such a way the command from Ex 12:8.

♦ Anointing the door with blood, hasty eating – these are elements of orders concerning only the situation of the Fathers who were to be banished by the Pharaoh after the Lord’s dramatic action against the firstborns of Egypt.

Israelites now take quite a different posture to show their situation does not require such behavior because the Lord truly made them free. Therefore, during the consumption of food-symbols (four cups of wine, matzah, and in some traditions also Afikoman) they not only do not stand but either lie on the left side or recline on the left side or rest on the left arm on soft pillows – in the royal style.

That is why the question of one of the four sons is: “Why do we rest this night and recline on soft pillows as if we were kings?” [34]

♦ The laws regarding the absence of acid at home during the feast [35] and the consumption of only unleavened bread and other acid-less dishes – one strictly observe.

♦ The command to tell the son about the significance of celebrating at night of 15 Abib and about the customs associated with it – one fulfills very clearly in the first part of the seder. At the beginning of the second part [36], the leader explains the meaning of the lamb and of eating unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

♦ The commandment to eat ‘unleavened bread of departure’ in memory of the Lord who led Israel out of captivity one accurately fulfills as a custom beginning the third part of the seder [37].

♦ However, within the Passover Seder, no one offers to God animals that opened the womb nor redeems sons who opened the womb. The shift of the fulfillment of this law to a different point of time is in agreement with Num 18:15f, but for a reader of the law pericope it may be worrying not to obey strictly all the orders and prohibitions of this pericope and the sequence suggested by it. It required an explanation because the composition of this pericope seems to indicate the necessity of placing in the Passover Seder, after eating Afikoman, the point with offering to God those who opened the womb. One can easily see it when looking at Table 1:

In column 4, which represents the fourth part of the seder – the one that follows the eating of Afikoman in the third part – there are three more elements:

• the duty to consecrate the firstborns (those who opened the womb) to the Lord13:1-2
• the law concerning ‘the unleavened bread of departure’13:3-11
• the duty to consecrate the firstborns (those who opened the womb) to the Lord13:12-16

Since one eats ‘the unleavened bread of departure’ in the third part, then in the next, fourth part, one would expect to fulfill the law of offering the firstborns to the Lord, or, more precisely, those who opened the womb.

This view also seems to be confirmed by an insightful look at the Bible text Ex 13:1-16:

Ex 13:1 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ² ‘Consecrate to me every first-born (בְּכוֹר) that opens the womb (פֶּטֶר כָּל־רֶחֶם) among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.’

³ Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, that place of slavery. It was with a strong hand that the Lord brought you away. Nothing made with leaven (חָמֵץ) must be eaten. 4 This day of your departure is in the month of Abib. Therefore, it is in this month that you must celebrate this rite, after the Lord, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers he would give you, a land flowing with milk and honey. 6 For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread (מַצֹּת), and the seventh day shall also be a festival to the Lord. 7 Only unleavened bread (מַצּוֹת) may be eaten during the seven days; no leaven (חָמֵץ) and nothing leavened (שְׂאֹר) may be found in all your territory. On this day you shall explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall be as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead; thus the law of the Lord will ever be on your lips, because with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 Therefore, you shall keep this prescribed rite at its appointed time from year to year. 11 ‘When the Lord, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, which he swore to you and your fathers he would give you,

12 you shall dedicate to the Lord every son that opens the womb (כָל־פֶּטֶר־רֶחֶם), and all the male firstlings of your animals (וְכָל־פֶּטֶר שֶׁגֶר בְּהֵמָה) shall belong to the Lord. 13 Every first-born (וְכָל־פֶּטֶר) of an ass you shall redeem with a sheep. If you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck. Every first-born (וְכֹל בְּכוֹר) son you must redeem. 14 If your son should ask you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall tell him, ‘With a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, that place of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every first-born (כָּל־בְּכוֹר) in the land of Egypt, every first-born (מִבְּכֹר) of man and first-born (בְּכוֹר) of a beast. That is why I sacrifice to the Lord everything of the male sex that opens the womb (כָּל־פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם הַזְּכָרִים), and why I redeem every first-born (וְכָל־בְּכוֹר) of my sons.’ 16 Let this, then, be as a sign on your hand and as a pendant on your forehead: with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.

Listing in one speech, one after another, the obligation to consume only unleavened bread (13:3ff) on the 15th day of Abib (and then during seven days of the feast of Unleavened Bread) and the obligation to offer to the Lord ‘those who opened the womb’ (13:12ff) is very remarkable here. What is more, God included it in His other speech also – on the Mount Sinai, while renewing the covenant with Israel! It is described in Ex 34:18-27, where the specific words and phrases are underlined:

Ex 34:18 You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread (הַמַּצּוֹת). For seven days at the prescribed time in the month of Abib you are to eat unleavened bread (מַצּוֹת), as I commanded you; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt. 19 To me belongs every first-born male that opens the womb (כָּל־פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם) among all your livestock, the firstlings (פֶּטֶר) of cow and sheep. 20 The firstling (וּפֶטֶר) of an ass you shall redeem with one of the flock; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. The first-born (כֹּל בְּכוֹר) among your sons you shall redeem. No one shall appear before me empty-handed. […] 25 You shall not offer me the blood of sacrifice with leavened bread (חָמֵץ), nor shall the sacrifice of the Passover feast be kept overnight for the next day. […] 27 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’

In the texts, essential words and phrases have been marked out.

In the Book of Exodus, God ordered that every year the fathers must tell and explain to the son the relationship between the Passover ritual and the Lord’s intervention for bringing Israel out of Egypt. One should notice two fragments enclose this command:

• the one describing the custom of eating unleavened bread by seven days

• moreover, the other which institutes the offering to the Lord of those who opened the womb.

At the same time, in each of these verses are words, though in a different order, derived from roots: יהוה, יצא, יד, חזקthe Lord, to bring out, a hand, a power. In effect, the phrase ‘with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt’ (Ex 13:3.9.14.16) occurs twice in each of the two fragments. Finally, in Ex 13:1-16, the forth part of the law pericope, this gives the number 4 in total, so distinguished in the Passover Seder.

Seder, among the questions of the four sons, also contains that of the wise one. It is why the solution to the problem of omission in its frame the offering of those who opened the womb had to be there. The father should have answered on the grounds of the Israeli Tradition. There must have been a very serious justification for this omission as consistent with God’s will! [38]

It turns out that such an explanation indeed is in the Tradition of Israel, in Pesachim X.8, and The Haggadah quotes it. However, the next point of this work will tell about it.

One should understand this Tradition is just as much of God’s will as the final redaction of the Book of Exodus and all other books of the Bible. It is, however, possible not only to accept this decision but also to understand it. For this purpose, we performed the penetrating analysis of the literary structure both of the law pericope and Ex 1-18. Thanks to them, we can conclude that:

The singing of Hallel is the realization of the goal to commemorate the work of the Lord, and to do it in the form written in the structure of Exodus 1-18.

2.3. The prohibition in The Tractate Pesachim X.8 in light of standard interpretations.

In the text of The Haggadah [39], in the fragment with the question of the wise son, one can read a particularly valuable explanation, taken from Mishnah, from The Tractate Pesachim X.8, namely [40]:

וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמֹר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

The wise one, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our God, has commanded you? [41] You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Pesach, [up to] ‘one is not to eat any dessert after the Pesach-lamb.’

How should we understand the above sentence from the third line? We can find different answers:

“You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Pesach, [up to] ‘one is not to eat any dessert after the Pesach-lamb’” [42],

which was also expressed in the Polish text from 1927 in a similar way:

“Ty tedy objaśnisz mu obrządki Paschy, aż do zdania: ‘Nie należy kończyć ofiary Paschy wetami’ ” [43] – “Then you will explain to him the rites of the Passover, to the sentence: ‘One should not end the sacrifice of the Passover with wety.’ ” Wety – it is the old Polish word for dessert [44].

The translation of a sentence that is important for analysis may also be such:

“One does not break up the Passover ceremony by announcing, ‘To the after-meal entertainment.’” [45]

Similarly in Jastrow’s dictionary [46]:

“after the Passover meal, one must not wind up by saying, ‘Now to the after-meal entertainment.’”

Similarly also in The Jewish Encyclopedia [47]:

“The Jewish form of it occurs in Mishnah Pes. x. 8, which says: ‘One should not break off the communion meal of the paschal lamb by starting another entertainment, called either ἐπικώμιον [festal song] or, according to others, ἐπíκωμον [an after-meal dessert or pastime].’ ”

According to the translation of The Tractate Pesachim X.8 from Mishnah into French:

“On ne termine pas la pâque par un aphikomén (dessert?)” [48]

i.e., “You do not end the Passover with an Afikomen (dessert?).”

In turn, according to the Polish translation of tThe Tractate Pesachim X.8 [49]:

“It does not end with an Afikoman after a paschal sacrifice.”

In Danby’s translation of Pesachim X.8 into English [50]:

After the Passover meal, they should not disperse to join in the revelry.”

In the footnote, Danby explains: “The joy of the Passover meal with its solemn symbolism must not degenerate into an ordinary convivial gathering. The traditional interpretation, however, is: ‘they may not finish with ‘dessert.’”

Translated into German [51]:

“Man läßt nach dem Passahmahl kein (weltliches) Jubellied אֶפִּיקוֹמִין (= ἐπικώμιον) folgen (wie es sonst nach Gastmählern üblich ist)…”

i.e., “No (secular) song of joy אֶפִּיקוֹמִין (= ἐπικώμιον) is allowed to take place after the Passover meal (as it is usually the case after an ordinary feast)…”

Explaining his translation, the author presents various ways of understanding this Hebrew word. First, he states that according to Rabbi Simon from the third century after Christ, it is a kind of song (all kinds of singing) [52].

Then, according to this explanation, he clarifies: “The translation of Tractate Pesachim X.8 of Mishnah according to Strack, Pesachim 34:

After the paschal meal, one does not dissolve the community, but there is Epikómion, a song of joy (with a solemn procession)” – becomes the literal meaning of the text:

אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומין.”M [53]

Then the author points out that the proper meaning of the word Afikoman was forgotten very quickly – Tosefta already understood it as dessert. This false explanation then became common throughout Jewish antiquity [54]. TPes 10:11 (173): “After the consumption of Passover, no dessert, like nuts and dates and parched corn, is permitted. After finishing the Passover meal, one should pray according to Passover Halacha, either alone or with his son or with a disciple.”

Conclusion: The collated translations of all authors are divergent, but they have a common thought: after eating the Passover lamb (or the Passover meal as a whole) it is not allowed to organize fun / to sing secular songs / to eat dessert.

According to many commentators [55], the word אפיקומן, contained in Mishnah in Tractate Pesachim X.8, comes from the Greek language:

Is this a proper understanding of this Hebrew term?

It seems necessary to discover the original meaning of the Hebrew text Pesachim X.8 based on biblical parallels. It is important to note that this is the case:

Afikoman (אפיקומן) is a piece of the middle matzah (called Levi) broken off by the leader of the Passover Seder at the beginning of the celebration and hidden by him so that it is only eaten almost at the very end of the Passover liturgy.

We should supplement the above-quoted translations of the sentence Pesachim X.8 with an analysis of its original text in Mishnah. It will be first presented in an analytical table, in which one is to read Hebrew sentence from right to left column but the English words inside the column from left to right.

The introductory phrase:

אֱמוֹר־לוֹאַתָּהוְאַף
tell himyouAnd also

The main sentence to be analyzed:

אֲפִיקוֹמָןהַפֶּסַחאַחַרמַפְטִירִיןאֵיןהַפֶּסַחכְּהִלְכוֹת
AfikomanPassoverafteropening*there are noPassoverIn the time of [56]

* because consumption connects with an opening of mouths, so interpreters add ‘mouths’: ‘opening of mouths.’

It is important to note that further analysis will show the need for verification of such interpretation!

Such interpretation is the result of associating this sentence with a custom existing in the Passover Seder, which prohibits eating anything after consuming Afikoman [57]. Therefore, according to a suggestion taken from practice, we can present the main sentence as follows:

In the time of the Passover,כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח
there is no consumingאֵין מַפְטִירִין
after the Passover Afikoman.אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

Finally, this sentence would have the following content, consistent with the practice:

“When celebrating Passover, one should not eat anything after the Passover Afikoman.” [58]

We must put a fundamental question: does Pesachim X.8 indeed talk about not-eating after Afikoman? Are we not mistaken assuming that this is about opening our mouths and, as a result, about eating? We will look for an answer by analyzing the word מַפְטִירִין, translated as ‘the opening’ [by default: the opening of the mouths], that is, ‘the eating.’

2.4. מַפְטִירִין – ‘these opening the womb,’ i.e., the firstborns.

What is מַפְטִירִין? The analysis of the form of the word itself leads us to understand it as a masculine plural participle in hiphil in status absolutus, derived from the verb פטרM [59]. Here are the arguments for this:

  1. According to Gesenius [60], יִן is the Aramaic ending of all parts of speech for the plural number; it appears sporadically in later books of the Old Testament and poetic fragments, even the oldest. A typical Hebrew form is יִם.
  2. In the Bible, there are 1792 masculine plural participles in status absolutus, of which 1790 ends with יִם, but two ends with יִן, both in qal (and therefore none of them in hiphil) [61]:
שׁוֹמֵמִיןthey being desertedLam 1:4
הָרָצִיןrunners2Kings 11:13

3. The masculine plural participle in hiphil having identical vowels as מַפְטִירִין and differing only in respect to the form of the ending ם, appears in the Hebrew Bible 18 times [62] but four times in sentence represents not the action, but the doer of an act:

לְמַשְׁמִיעִיםfor those sounding1Chr 16:42
מַשְׂחִיקִיםthose laughing2Chr 30:10
הַמַּגְדִּילִיםthose magnifying themselves over somebodyPsa 35:26
הַמַּשְׂכִּילִיםthose understandingDan 11:35

4. מַפְטִירִין can also be a correctly written word of an extra-biblical version of the Hebrew language. For example, in The Passover Haggadah, [63] there is the expression עֵרוּב תַּבְשִׁילִין (eruw tawszilin – allowing the cooking), where, in the second word, there are the same vowels as in מַפְטִירִין.

בשׁל – to cook, bake, fry; תַּבְשִׁילִין – cooking, baking, frying.

תַּבְשִׁילִין – it is a verbal noun.

Similarly, in the same Passover Haggadah [64], there is another expression:

וככה מגעיגין את הכלים, what one should translate: “and this is the purification of the vessels,” where מגעילין is a verbal noun, derived from געל – remove, discard.

5. Finally, one should state: מַפְטִירִין – it is a correctly written masculine plural participle in hiphil in status absolutus, derived from the verb פטר.

The word מַפְטִירִין is a verbal noun which means: those making the opening [by default: of the womb], i.e., the firstborn sons of their mothers (a father in a polygamous system could have a different firstborn son), the firstborn males of their mothers.

We must emphasize that in the description of Exodus in Ex 1:1-18:31, the word of the root פטר is present no more than in Ex 13:2.12.13.15, i.e., only in the 4th part of the law pericope. This word is essential, so we presented it during the analysis of the structure of this pericope.

2.5. Conclusions.

The analysis allows us to understand the prohibition contained in Pesachim X.8:

the main analyzed sentence:

אֲפִיקוֹמָןהַפֶּסַחאַחַרמַפְטִירִיןאֵיןהַפֶּסַחכְּהִלְכוֹת
AfikomanPassoverafteropening*there are noPassoverIn the time of

* ‘These opening the womb’ instead of ‘these opening the mouth,’ therefore it is not about eating!

So we understand this sentence as follows: “During the Passover, there are no ‘these opening the womb’ after the Passover Afikoman.

Finally, this sentence has the following content:

“At the time of the Passover, there is no offering of ‘these opening the womb’ after the consumption of the Passover Afikoman.”

One can see that if not only the structure of Ex 1-18 but also the law pericope was the model for the celebration of the Passover, such a sentence had to be in The Haggadah.

This sentence is to remind the leader of the Passover Seder to answer the question regarding the rules contained in this pericope: why is it that during the celebration one follows all that regulations except for one – to offer to the Lord ‘these opening the womb.’

The significance of this prohibition is essential not only for the annual Passover but also for biblical exegesis because it shows the law pericope as a model, whose orders and prohibitions the God-appointed authors of Haggadah were to write into the subsequent parts of Seder. They were inspired by God to understand that at the end of the Passover Seder there must be no offering of those who opened the womb, even though it would be the finalization of the fulfillment of all the precepts of this pericope.

At the end of Seder, at the moment where the reader of the pericope of law could expect such an offering, there is not an act of offering; instead of it, there is the singing of hymns of Hallel, magnificent psalms and songs commemorating the greatness of the work of the Lord who led Israel out of Egypt. Thanks to this visible exchange, it is possible today to see the significance of the literary structure of Ex 1-18 for the Passover Seder.

Summary

This paper has shown the word Afikoman as a compound Hebrew term, not a Greek one.

On the one hand, the way to discover it was to analyze The Hebrew Bible.

As the first step, we searched for the word אפיקומן or some part of it in the Hebrew text. We found that the word Afikoman – אֲפִיקוֹמָן – contains three words related to the way of Israel on the bottom of the Sea of Reeds during Exodus. They are אָפִיק (bottom; אֲפִיק is its status constructus), מָן (manna), יָם (sea). One can see the importance of it when one understands the eating of Afikoman by Passover Seder participants as a liturgical sign which makes them really with the Fathers who are marching on the dry bottom of the sea.

As the second step, we discovered a close relationship between the Passover rite and the literary structure of the law pericope Ex 13:16-14:31.

On the other hand, we analyzed the original sentences of The Tractate Pesachim X.8, where the word אפיקומן appears; they connect with the task of the Passover leader, who must explain all the rules of Seder in an answer for the wise son’s question. The last of these laws forbid them to eat something after the eating of Afikoman.

וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמֹר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

In this case, we showed the traditional Jewish explanations of this prohibition – the need to abstain from eating after consumption of the Afikoman – do not have as strong a rational argument as the one proved in this article, namely:

מַפְטִירִין in Pesachim X.8 is an important word and the reason for the mistakes. Why? Because the root of this term (פטר) means ‘to open,’ so the translators and commentators understand it as ‘an act of eating’ for the reason that such an activity connects with an opening of the mouth. Lexical analysis of this sentence explained it as a prohibition valid during the celebration of the Passover ritual to offer ‘these opening the womb’ (פֶּטֶר־רֶחֶם) to the Lord, in the exceptional opposition to the order contained in the law pericope.

An essential element in proving this thesis is the observation that the fourth part of the law pericope, Ex 13:1-16, contains two orders: to eat unleavened bread and to offer ‘these opening the womb’ to the Lord. However, the fourth part of the Passover Seder contains the first of these acts – the eating of the Afikoman – but not the second one. The prohibition expressed in Pesachim X.8 is the reason for this. Instead of that offering, there is the singing for the Lord – according to Ex 15:1-21 as the fourth part of the structure of the Ex 6:1-15:21.

The identification of analogies and differences between the commandments of the law pericope and their fulfillment in the Passover Seder is necessary not only for an understanding of the origin of the Passover rite but also for the proving the thesis of this article that Afikoman is a combined Hebrew word with a strictly defined meaning.

The eating of Afikoman during the 3rd part of the Passover Seder means that the participants of the sacral liturgy are now with their Fathers on the dry bottom of the Sea of Reeds. They are passing between divided waters of the sea and participating in the very act of the covenant-making between God and His people.

***

This article about the Passover Afikoman

has been published on Academia.edu

on 18 April 2019, i.e.,

at Holy Thursday.

May God be glorified!

אֲפִיקוֹמָן

https://www.adoracja.bielsko.opoka.org.pl/ Kosek_mainWeb_UK.html