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PESACH SERIES
Edited by Aryeh Werth

Is it proper to give expensive afikomen gifts to children?

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

While there are any number of reasons suggested for the ritual of taking the afikomen, ultimately it is linked with the notion of engaging our children in order to keep them awake throughout the Seder. This is in fulfillment of the mitzvah of vehigadeta lebincha.

Unfortunately, our spoiled generation has a whole new level of expectations, but we can find the balance in gifting them something that will make it “worth it” for them to stay awake, while at the same time teaching them something so much more.

We need to ask ourselves: What gifts are we imparting to our children? Is it the transient stuff, of which we can never get enough – here today, gone tomorrow? Or is it something more meaningful, more substantial that no matter what, it will always leave an indelible impression.

That’s a question for consideration: Are we gifting what our kids want or what we know they need? The Torah relates how Avraham was a man of tremendous wealth and stature. At the end of his life, says the Torah, “He willed all that he owned to Yitzchak, but to the children of Keturah he left gifts.” Rabbi Yehudah said in the Midrash: to Yitzchak he left the spiritual – the birthright of Klal Yisroel. But to Yishmael he left the material gifts.

Therein lies our challenge. Don’t educate your children to be rich. Teach them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things, not the price. Our children are the greatest gift Hashem will have given us. We need to, in turn, gift them the spiritual, wrapped in holiness and tied with love. When you’re older nothing else you will have given them will have mattered as much.

– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue.

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Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

These are truly unique times we live in. There is so much abundance and wealth that we have to actually ask a question like this. In the history of the world there has never been this much abundance and wealth available to the common person.

In that sense, it is a blessed time and we have to be thankful to Hashem for it. However, we also have to be wary of the trappings of living in our times.

Needless to say, parents and grandparents should to do whatever they can to help the children and bring them up in the best possible manner. Certainly, for a child who is expecting a gift, it would be appropriate to give one in line with what their classmates and friends receive, and anything less would be a potential issue. At the same time, we have to remember it’s very easy to spoil our children and grandchildren. Walking a thin line between giving a gift to a child to show love and not spoiling a child is one of today’s challenges, and an afikomen present is one area where you should be careful.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).

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Rabbi Yehoshua Heber

Giving gifts in exchange for the afikomen is one of the minhagim of the Seder for the purpose of keeping the children awake and engaged in spite of the late hour. It would seem to me that modest gifts can fulfill the purpose and there is no need to indulge the kids with extravagant presents even among those who are used to more expensive things.

On a more general note, modesty as a way of life is the derech of the Torah, as the prophet Micha taught us, “V’hatznaah leches im Elokecha.” A Yid is to strive as much as possible to live his life to please Hashem and not attempting to impress those around him. The more he can have his mind and heart occupied by these yearnings, the better. Much of our pursuit of the material in this world is with those superficial motives in mind.

Another Western value that has made inroads into our Torah world is consumerism. As if a major goal in our lives is to amass wealth and to consume goods and services. As far as the Torah is concerned the opposite may be said: we are to make the pursuit of the spiritual our life mission and make do with what we have in the material realm.

No question that inculcating these values is a tall order in today’s consumer society, but it does not help if we accustom our children to the ways of materialism. To the extent possible we need to make the effort to live the Torah values and at the same time try to be mechaneh our children in these beautiful ways.

– Rabbi Yehoshua Heber is Rav of Khal Tomchai Torah at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Dayan at Bdatz Mishptai Yisrael.

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It might be that with this year’s high wheat prices and the steep rise in the cost of shmurah matzah that the expensive present is cheaper or on par with the precious afikoman matzah one seeks to retrieve.

The heart of the Pesach Seder is the children and piquing their intellect and interest in the saga of our forefather’s freedom from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. Thus the four questions, each stressing an apparent uniqueness of the Pesach night meal – with practices that are not observed any other night of the year – should be enough to engage the young mind.

Yet as we seek to engage the young ones, we at times find that they are overcome with weariness and might begin to fall asleep. It is the anticipation of the afikoman present that provides an incentive sufficient to keep them in the loop of the evening’s proceedings. And, of course, the Talmud (Pesachim 109a) stresses that on Yom Tov we give the young children playthings, “parched ears of corn,” as the Gemara puts it. We thus see that even in antiquity gifting the young with presents was already an accepted practice.

True, some might go overboard and beyond their own affordability. Therefore one must train their child[ren] to keep in mind that the main idea of gifting is to graciously accept what is given, no matter how large or small.

– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.

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