The text was updated 2019.15.02.
TZAFUN (CAFUN) (Hebraic צפון) - the name of the eleventh Part of the Seder Meal.
During the Jewish Passover (see: Passover) the leader of the liturgical assembly takes care to assure that the celebration runs strictly according to the order (in Hebrew: Seder). For this purpose, he uses a particular book: “The Passover Haggadah”. “The Passover Haggadah” contains fourteen main parts to be accomplished sequentially. One of these parts is “TZAFUN (CAFUN)” – HIDDEN. What is its meaning?
To answer this question, one ought to perceive, that:
- The Hebrew name of this part of the Seder Meal (צפון) in “Haggada” sounds the same as the second part of the Hebrew biblical name “Baal-Zephon” – the name of the locality opposite which Israelites pitched a camp before their passage through the Sea of Reeds (cf. the Book of Exodus 14:2.9, but especially see the spelling of this word in the Book of Numbers 33:7: צפון)
- The Hebrew word Tzafun / Zephon (in Haggada / in Bible) means hidden / north. It is particularly important that these two versions of one Hebrew word have the same consonants. Because the consonants here are identical, so until the 6th century after Christ this two different words (one in Haggada, the other in Bible) were the same word. Why? Because they differ only in the vocalic signs, added to the biblical text by Masoretes not before the 6th century after Christ (whereas the latest fragments of the Book of Exodus and the Book of Numbers date back to about 6th century before Christ, and this fragments of the Haggada date back to about 2nd century after Christ).
What is the meaning of Afikoman in Seder?
- It’s a liturgical sign, the one that not only informs about the reality but also translocates its executors into this reality, as the Haggada explains it: “In every generation, one ought to regard himself as though he had personally come out of Egypt”. It is fitting to notice the direction of the translocation accomplished by the liturgy: it is not the translocation of past events to our time but the translocation of us to the time of those past events. It is not the past events that are made to be present for us; it is we who are transported to be present in those past situations.
- Afikoman as liturgical sign acts in this manner: in the strictly appointed time of Seder, i.e. when everybody of Paschal participants eats Afikoman, then ‘here and now’ paschal community really participates in the passage of God and of whole Israel between the halves of the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds (See Book_of_Exodus 14).
The correct etymology of Afikoman is very important to understand its meaning in Seder.
Against the prevailing opinion, it is not the Greek word that Afikoman bases on. The meaning of Afikoman is easily perceptible in its Hebrew inscription. But where can you find this Hebrew term? The answer is as follows: within the framework of the 5th part of Seder when the leader has to explain all the laws and orders of the celebrated liturgy. The last issue on which he has to finish the presentation is the prohibition of eating after the consumption of paschal Afikoman. One can read this prohibition in Mishna, where, in the order Moed in the tractate Pesahim, the tenth and final chapter discusses the order of the Passover seder; for Afikoman see X.8. Here we have the Hebrew term Afikoman - אֲפִיקוֹםָן. When presented without these vocalic signs which were added to Hebrew texts by Masoretes about the 6th century after Christ, has the following form: אפיקומן. Because in dictionaries of Hebrew there is no word with such consonants, one can suppose that it is a word formed as the composition of two or more commonly known Hebrew words. Penetrating research showed that it is so indeed.
So we have the meaning of Afikoman, perceived in its Hebrew inscription:
- Afik (אֲפִיק = bottom, chanel (see for example Psa 18:16: אֲפִיקֵי מַיִם - the bottom of the sea)
- Afiko (אֲפִיקוֹ)= its bottom, its channel (added final וֹ - its)
- man (םָן) = manna (see for example Exod 16:31)
- In the composition it gives: Afikoman (אֲפִיקוֹםָן)= its bottom is of the manna (i.e. the sea bottom is possessed by manna) - see also the description of the Afikoman
The meaning of Afikoman is the clearest against the background of the history of Exodus:
- 1. On the one hand, let us consider the meaning of Afikoman in the history of Exodus:
- 1.1. Afikoman is a piece of unleavened bread. It is not leavened, its taste is similar to that of sweet manna, about which the Bible (Exod 16:31) says: “the taste of it as a wafer with honey”.
- 1.2. Israelites, while going in a hurry out from Egypt, brought out not leavened dough in their kneading bowls, so they were baking unleavened bread on the way: “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt. For it was not leavened since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves” (Exod 12:39). Their march continued without a break by the time of seven days. In the middle of this period – during the night of the fourth day – they were crossing between two halves of the divided Sea of Reeds; they were passing upon the dry ground, upon the bare bottom of the sea. “The Israelites walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea (Exod 14:29).
- 1.3. Israelites carrying “manna” (i.e. not leavened dough) on their shoulders, in a certain sense covered the bare bottom of the Sea of Reeds with “manna”. In a certain sense they changed the sea bottom into “manna”. Now we can understand why “Afikoman” means: its (of Sea of Reeds) bottom is manna.
- 1.4. For that reason:
- Afikoman = its bottom is manna
- Afikoman = its (of the Sea of Reeds) bottom is manna
- 1.5. Because during this passage Israelites had nothing to eat excepting the dough not acidified, so they were baking unleavened cakes (Afikoman). Precisely for that reason at the time of Passover, it is just after the eating of Afikoman that the consumption is forbidden (except drinking the wine of the third and the fourth ritual cup, of course). In other words: At this stage of Exodus, the fathers ate nothing but unacidified cakes, so they now eat nothing but the Afikoman.
- 1.6. In brief: Afikoman is unleavened, not sour, so Afikoman is like those unleavened cakes of historical Exodus, and especially of passage upon the dry bottom of the sea.
- 2. On the other hand, let us consider the meaning of “Baal-Zephon” in the history of Exodus:
- 2.1. One can notice that the passage of Israelites took place exactly opposite to locality Baal-Zephon: Exod 14:2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-Zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea”.
- 2.2. Because two main facts are:
– ‘Baal-Zephon’ can be read as Baal-Tzafun, as we proved in the first section of this article,
– Afikoman, as a liturgical sign, is not only to inform about reality but also to translocate its consumers into this reality,
so we can conclude: Within the framework of the eleventh part of the Seder Meal (Tzafun) there is the unleavened Afikoman eaten as a sign that just now participants of the Paschal liturgy participate in the passage between the two halves of the divided Sea of Reeds, just after their encamping by the sea in front of Baal-Zephon / Baal-Tzafun.
It is well known that rich in history and tradition, the Passover Seder commemorates the exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt thousands of years ago. We are now able to combine each of the separate parts of Seder with the corresponding exodus stages. Thus the eating of Afikoman in the eleventh Part of the Seder Meal (Tzafun) means that just in the time of this eating, participants of Passover participate in the passage under the leadership of God with their fathers between the two halves of the divided Sea of Reeds.
The last remark
The eating of Afikoman by the participants of Passover translocates them into the whole way from the place of the consumption of the lamb in Egypt to that of the singing of a hymn in Lord’s honor on the second strand of the Sea of Reeds. But chiefly it moves them into this fragment of the way which is on the bare bottom of the Sea of Reeds, in front of Baal-Zephon. It is consistent with the correct etymology of both the word Afikoman and of the eleventh Part of the Seder Meal (Tzafun).
- Wojciech Kosek, The original rite of the Passover in the light of the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18, Scientific Publishing House of the Pontifical Academy of Theology (Wydawnictwo Naukowe Papieskiej Akademii Teologicznej w Krakowie), Kraków 2008, ss. 440 – summary of doctoral thesis
- W. Kosek, The original rite of the Passover – Internet presentation in the English language
- W. Kosek, The original rite of the Passover – Internet presentation in the German language
- W. Kosek, The original rite of the Passover – Internet presentation in the Polish language
- HAGGADAH (SHEL PESAḤ) in free Jewish encyclopedia on the Internet.