Many know that one of the most important activities that is part of the traditional preparation for Passover is the elimination of anything that has leaven in it (Hebrew: hametz)… but why is this so important?
What is it and how do we keep the feast of unleavened bread? What is it we should be cleansing out of our houses? Is it only our physical houses that we should be cleansing?
For Seven days (or eight according to some) we are to not have any leaven in our houses. Is it just a physical thing or is there more to this?
Various substances were known to have fermenting qualities; but the ordinary leaven consisted of a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation, which was mixed into the mass of dough prepared for baking. The use of leaven was strictly forbidden in all offerings made to the Lord by fire. During the Passover, Israel was commanded to put out every particle of leaven from the house.
The most prominent idea associated with leaven in connection with the corruption which it had undergone, and which it communicated to bread in the process of fermentation. It is to this property of leaven that our Savior points when he speaks of the “leaven (that is, the corrupt doctrine) of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” Mat_16:6 and Paul, when he speaks of the “old leaven.” 1Co_5:7.
Another quality in leaven is noticed in the Bible, namely, its unseen penetrating and diffusive power causing expansion. In this respect it was emblematic of moral influence generally, whether good or bad; and hence our Savior adopts it as illustrating the growth of the kingdom of heaven in the individual heart and in the world at large: because
(1) its source is from without;
(2) it is secret in its operation;
(3) it spreads by contact of particle with particle;
(4) it is widely diffusive, one particle of leaven being able to change any number of particles of flour; and because
(5) it does not act like water, moistening a certain amount of flour, but is like a plant, changing the particles it encounters into its own nature, with like propagating power. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)
Leaven in Hebrew is called Chametz: See Strong’s; H2556, חָמֵץ and/or H2557 חָמֵץ
A primitive root; to be pungent; that is, in taste (sour, that is, literally fermented, or figuratively harsh), in color (dazzling): – cruel (man), dyed, be grieved, leavened.
What could all these things have in common symbolically?
Leaven can have many meanings and we see it used in the Tanakh in various uses:
Life Blood: Isa 63:1 – ‘Who is this that cometh from Edom, with crimsonedH2556 garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, stately in the greatness of his strength?’ – ‘I that speak in victory, mighty to save.’
Intentions Acted Out: Ps. 71:4 – Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruelH2556 man.
Feelings of the Heart: Ps. 73:21 – Thus my heart was grievedH2556, and I was pricked in my reins.
The above are all examples of inner things that affect the outer world with a negative connotation… but does leaven always have a negative meaning?
The Real Meaning of Leaven…
It has been the conventional wisdom and teaching in the church and the body of Messiah that Leaven is sin. But this is a limited understanding when we take several scriptures into account… and we actually find it has a connotation of a seed of thought or your conscious reality!
Consider Matthew 13:33, “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.”
Luk 13:20-21 “And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.
Why has Leaven been associated with Sin?
Because sin is self-seeking consciousness that thinks it is the center of reality and thus grows more full of it’s self and persuades one away from the true Source of Life and Truth, which is selfless love!
Gal 5:7 Ye were running well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth?
Gal 5:8 This persuasion came not of him that called you.
Gal 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Now when we look at these verses it is clear that Leaven couldn’t be sin because the “Kingdom of Heaven” and the “Kingdom of God” is likened to leaven… Therefore it must be a state of Mind!
Galatians indicates that there is a leaven that can infect your thinking. The word “persuasion” is only used here but the root has the connotation of being persuaded or convinced, trusting what the person says. In other words, it’s a form of teaching or a paradym of thinking.
Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. – 1Co 5:8
Now 1 Cor. 5:8 isn’t saying that there aren’t two forms of leaven, good and bad, but it does indicate that there is leaven that is with malice and wickedness. The context of the verse is the feast of “unleavened” bread, we are to come as clean, simple, open minded vessels for Him to fill and teach and reveal more to.
In the teaching and observing of the Passover we cleanse ourselves of all our false doctrines and beliefs and come back to the Father and His Son, the Passover Lamb! Cleansing us and purifying us to allow His teachings and doctrines to permeate our very being once again.
In the following verses note that Yeshua is referring to one form of leaven that comes from the Pharisees and Sadducees that they should beware of. He is indicating by this that there are other forms of leaven that we aren’t to beware of.
And Yeshua said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Mat 16:6
Mat 16:11 How is it that ye do not perceive that I spoke not to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Mat 16:12 Then understood they that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Luk 12:1 In the meantime, when the many thousands of the multitude were gathered together, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
So, what if bad leaven was not only Sin, in and of itself, but “erroneous thinking” and “false doctrines and teachings”?
When you look at the first-time leaven is forbidden in Ex.12, during the first Passover, realize what the children of Israel were living in. They were living with serious false doctrines of false gods, false worship, and wrong behavior of all kinds.
It was part of the culture they were living in and the teachings they were exposed to. To make them aware of the cleansing that needed to go on, an earthly or physical method was used to make them aware of the spiritual and physical corrections that were needed.
Take the leaven out of your lives completely and cleanse yourselves for seven days. Do this every year to remind you to examine your life for the wrong teachings and doctrines that have crept in.
When the children of Israel were in the wilderness you can see over and over how they wanted to return to the way of life that they had lived in Egypt. The golden calf is just one example.
A great example of replacing wrong doctrines and teachings can be seen in Yeshua’s teachings. Many times, the people were amazed at His teachings and doctrines.
It makes a lot more sense and fits with the entire scriptures when you change leaven from meaning sin, to its being right and wrong doctrines.
We want our lives and our minds to be permeated with the correct doctrines from above and not the doctrines and teachings of the world. Every year when we go through Passover and the feast of unleavened bread it is a time to examine our lives and search out the false doctrines that cause us to sin.
Go to the root cause and treat it and don’t just treat the symptom.
So, the next process would be to examine what doctrines and teachings we need to purge from our lives.
When I believe a doctrine/teaching, it is something that directs my core values and beliefs. It is what I believe, or, Hang my hat on. I believe that this behavior is ok therefore I’m doing no wrong.
Sometimes it can be as subtle as, the ends justify the means.
Other times it is just outright disregard for the Father’s commandments and word.
Yeshua came to set things right and to give the people correct doctrines and ways of thinking and acting. He was about relationship with the Father and with each other. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were, it seems, mostly about themselves and an appearance of piousness but all the while serving themselves. They were also very concerned about their authority and power being challenged.
Yeshua called and calls us to be “servants” to the Father and to each other. This would be the first and main doctrine. We need to seek Him, and His ways completely and totally and not try to make our ways His ways.
We don’t bring anything to Him but ourselves and learn.
Therefore, I also believe that we don’t make any offering to Him with leaven. We are not to offer any “leaven” “doctrines or teachings” to Him only pureness of being a blank slate to allow Him to fill us with the “Doctrines or teachings of Heaven or God”
Leaven in the physical world is an interesting subject to look at considering the study we’ve done in the scripture.
Leaven is a fungus basically. There is a whole study of what yeast is and how it has been used, produced and commercially made. The basic operation of yeast is to react with the other ingredients and cause gas to be generated which causes the bread to expand.
An interesting fact is that in the United States naturally occurring yeast in the air was used as the primary method of adding yeast to breads. This would or could also be the ancient way it was done naturally.
How does it work?
A mixture of flour and water is put together to make the basic dough. This is put into a jar, clay back in ancient times, a cheese cloth material placed over the lid and a wire or protective screen to keep out larger critters. This is set in a field for a period to be exposed to the yeast of leavening fungi in the air. After setting in the elements this dough has become infected by the yeast fungi and is now able to be taken and used as a “starter” for other breads.
Taking a small ball from your starter batch and place it in the fresh flour and water leaving it set in a warm place and it will “infect” the rest of the bread.
After a year the starter can become weak or contaminated and needs to be thrown out and a fresh batch begun. And when does this typically happen? Well that would be spring time when the new fungi are floating in the air.
Having this picture, it can now be understood a little clearer about why the children of Israel left Egypt without the bread being leavened. It was spring and more likely than not the new batch of starter hadn’t had time to be infected with the new leaven/fungi.
In our bodies it is a good thing to do a cleansing to rid ourselves of unwanted build up of chemicals, toxins and other undesirable items. Typically, a complete cleanse is done over a period of seven days. After this period, you would introduce good bacteria and other healthy foods to produce the proper balance in your system.
So, we cleanse out the bad buildup of wrong bacteria, fungi and other undesirable substances and then we will introduce the “good” bacteria and fungi etc. that will now go to every corner of our bodies, just like leaven in the bread.
During the Passover it is 7-8 days of no leavened or yeast producing products in our diet. This would physically cleanse us and be a picture of a spiritual cleansing as well.
In this cleansing we were to remove “ALL” leavening agents from our houses and do a complete cleaning. This would have us remove all potential leavening that has been left in any corner of the cupboards, shelves, utensils, etc. etc. from the last year of our lives. By doing this we are eliminating the possibility of any of the old fungus “infecting” our new starter that will feed us for the next year.
In dealing with the spiritual we want to follow this same example. That is to inspect every aspect of our lives and root out any doctrines that have crept in as a leavening in our lives to corrupt our motivation and directions of our thinking and actions. These doctrines or teachings/beliefs, would crowd out the proper doctrines of our Father and contaminate the whole.
I honestly would begin this discussion and examination by looking in-depth at the 10 words or commandments.
While everyone starts at the beginning and looks at them from one through ten, I would contend that we need to start at number 10 and work our way backwards.
The tenth commandment while the last and possibly the “least” is, the “greatest”.
If you break the last commandment or don’t have a focus on it, you literally will break all the other commandments.
Coveting is the root of breaking all the other commandments. It puts me first and no one or anything else. It can justify the means. It is a motivator for all the evil that is in the world for the most part. It is what drove King David to commit the sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. It is the cause for satan to be thrown out of heaven. He sought to exalt himself above God.
Marriages succeed and fail because of us coming into the relationship expecting someone else, our partner, to supply the things we are lacking or think we need instead of what can I do to serve. Business’ also have this same problem. Life is full of this issue.
What I want, and need is more important than anything or anyone else. Yeshua came to serve and have us serve the Father and others. In examining the teachings of Yeshua it becomes clear that He was teaching service and not attention. Mathew chapter 6 is a prime example of three areas that this was happening and not happening.
In the Tanakh when an offering was made to the Father it was done “without” leavening. Why? I believe it is because “we” are not to offer any doctrines or teachings to the Father but receive His “leaven” to permeate our entire being.
“But seek you first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”. Mt. 6:33
It’s interesting that this verse is at the end of Mathew 6 and the very clear section on not focusing on ourselves and the three examples of both sides.
In all my life watching the destruction of peoples lives, congregational splits and divisions it really boiled down to this point of, I’m right, and not focusing on relationship.
There are many, many verses, teachings and examples of this in scripture but the point has been made I believe.
During this Passover season let us focus on serving with honesty and humility and remove the doctrines of “self” and replace it with “His” teachings of love and compassion. It’s not that we deny ourselves completely of any physical possessions etc. but rather a focus on Him and each other.
Let’s remove the lies that are in our lives, both blatant and hidden.
Cleanse out the old leaven and allow Him to place His pure Godly leaven, teachings, in us to permeate us.
May you be blessed with this meditation and have a very meaningful Passover!
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2021 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.