Near the start of the Seder, we break the middle matzah - "Yachatz." Why? What do the two parts represent? Why do we break one of the halves into five pieces, according to Kabbalah?

Two Redemptions

The two halves of the matzah correspond to the two redemptions we celebrate on the night of Passover. The first half of the Seder focuses on the redemption from Egypt. This was an incomplete redemption, since it was followed by exile later in our history. It is therefore represented by the smaller piece of matzah which remains in front of us as we recount the Exodus from Egypt.

This future redemption is represented by the afikoman, which remains hidden...

The second half of the Seder focuses on the future, eternal redemption. This future redemption is represented by the afikoman which remains hidden, just as the day of our future redemption remains hidden from us. (Chatam Sofer; see Chida)

Unity of Opposites

The two pieces of the matzah embody two starkly different realities. The small piece is "poor man's bread"; the larger piece is the afikoman, which must be eaten at the end of the meal, like a dessert, in the manner of the rich who continue eating even after having eaten their fill.

This duality of the middle matzah is an example of the duality that runs throughout the Seder: On the one hand we are celebrating freedom—drinking wine, reclining, and so on—yet at the same time reliving the bitterness of the slavery. The matzah itself is both the bread of slaves and the poor, and at the same time "the bread of faith" and "bread of healing." But it is in the middle matzah that this contrast is most stark, since the very same matzah contains two seemingly contradictory elements.

How is it that these very different elements—poverty and wealth—should find a home in the same matzah? The answer is that the two are interconnected: the small and broken pieces of life — the challenges and the struggle — bring "the larger piece," the richness of life, to the fore.

When we look around the world today, we may see spiritual poverty and brokenness. We may find it hard to imagine that there is another piece to this very "matzah" — a hidden piece ready to emerge. The story of the Exodus, however, tells us to be optimistic: From the depths of darkness in which we had become immersed in Egypt, we were, in a matter of moments, transported into the historic and unparalleled spiritual revelations of the Exodus.

...there is an undercurrent of goodness and Divine awareness that is permeating the world.

In truth, despite the darkness that we perceive, there is an undercurrent of goodness and Divine awareness that is permeating the world. We have studied the smaller piece for long enough; it is time for the afikoman of history to make its appearance. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

The Five Pieces

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch did not know if his father, Rabbi Shalom DovBer, was deliberately breaking the afikoman into five pieces. Once, the afikoman broke into six pieces and Rabbi Shalom DovBer set the sixth piece aside. His son then asked him what the significance of the five pieces was. Rabbi Shalom DovBer replied: "Az men vil altz vissen, vert men gech alt — one who wants to know everything becomes old quickly."

Later, during a walk, the Rebbe heard his son sigh and realized that he was upset that he did not merit to hear the reason for the five pieces. He said to his son, "I see that it is very important to you," and then proceeded to explain: The middle matzah corresponds to Isaac, whose primary attribute is gevura, strength or severity. The word yachatz thus contains three of the letters of Y-i-tz-ch-ak.

Afikoman is related to the "Kindness of Abraham." Afiko-man, which means "bring out food," corresponds to Abraham, who provided nourishment to all, and whose primary attribute was Kindness. Kabbalah teaches that gevura is made up of five elements.

By breaking the middle matzah, we "break" the severity and "sweeten" its five elements with the "Kindness of Abraham" (Sefer Hasichot 5698, p. 261).


[From "The Passover Haggadah [Kehot]. Available at //]