“On the fifteenth day of the same month
is the festival of matzah;
for seven days you are to eat matzah.”
Let’s talk a little about the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Just as Passover was, this feast was a remembrance of Israel leaving Egypt.
Recall that Israel was in such a hurry that they had no time to prepare bread in the normal way by giving it time to rise and then baking it.
The only way to speed up the usual baking process was to make bread without yeast or leaven.
This is actually the traditional way Bedouins make bread.
Now what’s really fascinating are the many direct parallels the Bible makes between leavening and sin.
Let’s examine the properties of leaven and how it functions.
Leavening is a substance that causes fermentation.
And what is fermentation?
Fermentation is a process of decay.
When leaven is added to food, it accelerates how fast it will decay.
Now what’s the spiritual lesson to be gleaned here?
Just as leaven accelerates the rate of decay in the foods it is added to, so does sin accelerate our decay both physically and spiritually.
That’s why Israel was told to clean out their dwellings
No sin as symbolized by the leaven was to accompany them into the new life and exciting plans God had in store for them.
And the same goes for us!
No sin (or leaven) can accompany us into the glorious future HASHEM has prepared for us.
The Torah actually uses a really interesting word to describe what God did in rescuing Israel from bondage to the Egyptians.
That word is REDEMPTION!
Ain’t that awesome?
God says He redeemed them.
Understand that to redeem something means you have to pay a price for it.
Israel’s freedom came at great cost.
What was that price?
It was the thousands and thousands of firstborn Egyptians and their innocent livestock who died.
They paid the price for Israel’s redemption.
In my research for this post, I had to share some really interesting quotes concerning why leaven is banned during Passover.
“Fermentation is equivalent to decay and corruption and for this reason is prohibited on the altar…”
-Jacob Milgrom from his commentary on Leviticus
“Leaven symbolizes the undesirable: misfortune, evil intensions and especially ritual impurity. To purge it is to make a fresh start, to experience catharsis. This understanding fits well with the historical context of the holiday. In the month of the New Grain, the Hebrews cast off centuries of oppression and assumed a holier, more ascetic status for their desert wanderings and subsequent national life.”-Anchor Bible Commentary to Exodus 1-18, p. 434
“The interpreters of the holy scriptures do also say that the unleavened food is a gift of nature, but that leavened bread is a work of art. Since, therefore, the vernal festival (Passover) is a commemoration of the creation of the world, and since that it was inevitable that the most ancient persons, those formed out of the earth, must have used the gifts of the world without alteration … the lawgiver ordained that food which was the most suitable to the occasion, wishing to kindle every year a desire to walk in the paths of a holy and rigid way of Life … For they are all unleavened, the clearest example of an unmixed food which has been prepared not by human skill for pleasure but by nature for the most essential use.”-Philo from The Special Laws 2:159-160
And although I couldn’t find a direct quote, apparently in rabbinic literature, leaven is often used as a metaphor for the YETZER HARA or evil inclination.
Finally, who or what was the ultimate symbol of unleavened bread?
Of course Yeshua who proclaimed himself the Unleavened Bread of Life.
Although he died and went to the grave, because he was declared righteous by the father, his body did NOT decay.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Therefore purge out the old leaven,
that you may be a new lump,
since you truly are unleavened.
And the truth is Passover is ours!
Messiah was killed.
Therefore, let us keep the feast
not with old leaven
nor with the leaven
of malice and wickedness
but with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth.”
-1 Corinthians 5:7-8