The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover are so intertwined that the Jewish people refer to this Feast as Passover I thru Passover VII. In our Passover Resource, we discuss how Passover is actually not a day, but two events, the killing of the lamb and the eating of the lamb. The eating of the lamb takes place on the first day of Unleavened Bread after the sun sets on the 14th of Nisan/Abib which starts the 15th day (Remember that Hebrew days begin at sunset).
Exodus 12:15-20 You must eat unleavened bread for seven days. On the first day you must remove yeast from your houses. Whoever eats what is leavened from the first day through the seventh day must be cut off from Israel. You are to hold a sacred assembly on the first day and another sacred assembly on the seventh day. No work may be done on those days except for preparing what people need to eat — you may do only that. “You are to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread because on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. You must observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent statute. You are to eat unleavened bread in the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day of the month until the evening of the twenty-first day. Yeast must not be found in your houses for seven days. If anyone eats something leavened, that person, whether a foreign resident or native of the land, must be cut off from the community of Israel. Do not eat anything leavened; eat unleavened bread in all your homes.”
Verse 15 makes it clear that we are supposed to eat unleavened bread for seven days. Traditionally unleavened bread is called matzo, matza or matzah and is sold in stores, usually as large crackers. Any bread made without leaven is unleavened. So we don’t have to eat matzah crackers all seven days, but we do need to eat some form of unleavened bread. Some tortillas are unleavened, and if you can’t find unleavened tortillas, they are very easy to make. Verse 15 also tells us to remove the yeast from our houses. This raises one of the most common questions concerning Unleavened Bread, exactly what do we have to remove from our houses? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some Ultra-Orthodox Jews will remove all of the furniture out of their house and clean everything from top to bottom to make sure they don’t leave even a crumb of leavened bread. Some people are very dogmatic about what needs to be removed and suggest that anything that contains yeast “MUST” be removed. There is a lot of tradition in regards to what exactly must be removed from our homes, and as we often state, there is nothing wrong with traditions. However, we are only going to explain what the Bible says is to be removed without the added traditions.
The word used for yeast or leaven in v. 15 is sĕ’or and is referring to a small piece of dough that was used to leaven a batch of bread. Today this is called a sourdough starter. The basic idea is to mix flour and water and let it sit out. Eventually, the natural yeast in the air will start to eat this flour and water mixture and leaven it. Then this sourdough starter can be used to make leavened bread. Before baking, a pinch of the leavened dough would be taken off and used to leaven the next batch of bread. So, sĕ’or is literally talking about a small piece of leavened dough that was used to make leavened bread. Hence the expression, “a little leaven leaven’s the whole lump.”
Today most people don’t have a piece of leavened dough to get rid of so what exactly are we supposed to take out of our homes? The yeast or leaven in the Bible is all about that little lump of dough. The Israelites could not just run up to the store and buy a packet of yeast like today. The little packets of yeast we buy are inactive and are no different than the yeast that is naturally in the air.
Some people claim that anything that leavens must be removed, but we disagree. Things like baking soda and baking powder are not alive like yeast is, so removing them is not necessary either. While we do not believe that chemical leavening agents need to be removed, we are commanded not to eat leavened bread, so we do not eat any bread products that have been leavened, regardless of how they were leavened. So, there’s no need to remove Bisquick, but using Bisquick to make pancakes is a no, no since pancakes are a leavened bread.
That brings us to our next topic…what is leavened bread? Verse 20 very plainly states that we are not to eat anything leavened. The Hebrew word for leavened is chametz, and it is very simply defined as anything that has risen. Things like bread and crackers that contain leavening agents need to be removed and not eaten during this seven day Feast, but things like beer and wine are not things that have risen. Neither are other liquids that may contain yeast or grains for that matter.
Matthew 13:33 is a great example of showing the relationship between sĕ’or and chametz.
Matthew 13:33 “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through all of it.”
The yeast that Y’shua was speaking of would have been that little lump of dough, the sĕ’or, and as it spreads throughout the flour, the entire batch would become chametz. It’s all about the bread, which is why we don’t feel it is necessary to remove or refrain from eating non-bread items that may contain yeast. Some examples of this would be, beer, malt vinegar, and even grains like wheat, barley, and oats.
Leaven also has a spiritual meaning.
Matthew 16:6-12 Then Y’shua told them, “Watch out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they discussed among themselves, “We didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of this, Y’shua said, “You of little faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves that you do not have bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many baskets you collected? Or the seven loaves for the 4,000 and how many large baskets you collected? Why is it you don’t understand that when I told you, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,’ it wasn’t about bread?” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the yeast in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Leaven is associated with the bad teachings and doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Luke 12:1 Y’shua calls the leaven (teaching) of the Pharisees hypocrisy. So along with the physical leavened bread, we also should take time during this Feast to remove any false teachings or doctrines that do not line up with the Word! This is exactly what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 5.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. You are indeed unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old yeast or with the yeast of malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
To sum up, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first and seventh day are High Sabbaths and no work is to be done, except that which must be done for the Passover meal eaten on the first day. Leaven is to be removed from our homes during this feast. Physically leaven refers to a little plug of dough that most of us do not have in our homes today, and spiritually it is referring to false teachings. If someone feels the need to remove any and all things that contain yeast, there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not required according to scripture. There is yeast in the air naturally, so truth be told; it is impossible to remove ALL yeast from our houses.
We also must remove any bread products that have already risen. This includes things like sandwich bread, yeast rolls, many crackers and cookies, and other bread products that have risen. Things like beer and wine and grains which are not bread products do not have to be removed.
For those new to this Feast, it can be very overwhelming trying to figure out what to remove and where to put it. Here’s what we do. About a month before this Feast, we start paying close attention to what types of leavened bread products we buy. About two weeks before the Feast we start making an effort to eat up any leavened bread products we have in our houses. A few days before the Feast, we make a note of all the things that will need to be removed that we were not able to eat. The day before the Feast, we bag up what we need to get out of the house (usually just a few things like crackers and some cookies) and remove them from the home. There are plenty of places to store this stuff during the Feast also. One option for anything that hasn’t been opened is to donate it to a local food pantry. Also, you could take it to your office at work or have a neighbor or a family member keep it for you (This also gives us an opportunity to witness to them about YHWH’s Feast days). If those are not options, keep them in a shed, garage, or carport. The important thing is not to get overwhelmed and HAVE FUN!
If you can, celebrate it with like-minded believers. Here is a link to 119 Ministries Hebrew Roots Map to help you locate people in your area to celebrate with.
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