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Shemote (Exodus) 12:14-16
14 “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to YHWH throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”
About this time of year, when Passover is fast approaching, people often ask me about how to de-leaven their houses. It is not what they call a “salvational issue,” so it is not anything that anyone should ever divide over. (If He leads you to do something different, then it is not the end of the world.) However, here is what little I think I may know.
The Orthodox rabbis teach that we should perform a thorough, deep-cleaning of our houses at Passover time, so as to remove any and all traces of physical leaven from our houses. Personally I do not find that commanded anywhere in Scripture, and I disagree with adding to the Torah.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your Elohim which I command you.”
To me, this passage seems to imply that in order to keep YHWH’s commandments, we must be careful not to add to them; and that if we add to them, then we are not really keeping His commandments. (Therefore, I try not to do that.)
Our forefathers had just a few short days to get ready for the first Passover, and they probably had to focus all of their energies on packing and getting ready to move. They probably had no time to concern themselves with scouring the houses they were getting ready to abandon. However, since a deep Spring Cleaning is generally a good idea, I do not speak against it.
Leaven represents sin, and at least from one perspective it makes sense to do a good ‘deep cleaning’ on our houses before we partake of the Passover, for we are commanded to purge out the leaven.
Qorintim Aleph (1st Corinthians) 5:7-8
7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
8 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.
For those who ‘just want to know what the Torah says,’ we are commanded not to eat anything leavened during Passover and/or the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We are also not supposed to have any leaven (or anything leavened) anywhere on our property during that time.
Shemote (Exodus) 13:7
7 “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days, and no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters (borders).”
In the first Passover, the thing to do was to throw anything leavened into the fire, in order to burn it up. This is sometimes seen as being symbolic of how we become spiritually purged of leaven by refinement in the fire.
In Israel, the rabbis interpret this passage literally. Rather than have businesses throw out any and all foods that contain leavening agents (such as baking soda and baking powder) the ruling is to obscure them from view by placing paper in front of them, so that no leavening agents “shall be seen” among any of their borders. At first I used to think this was a cop-out, until I realized how much wasted food (and wasted resources) throughout the Nation of Israel, if all of this food was literally thrown out (or burned).
While it may be that leaven does not need to be thrown out of warehouses (and that it only needs to be concealed from view in stores), the Torah does tell us plainly not to have any leaven in our houses, lest we consume leaven.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:19-20
19 “For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.
20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'”
There will be those who believe that it would be better if there were no leaven and no leavening agents anywhere in the borders of all Israel during the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened, and this kind of zeal is good. However, it is also important that we remember not to add or take anything away from YHWH’s Torah.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
The “Scriptural requirement” is to rid one’s house of any and all leavened foods, and any and all agents that can be used to leaven food. This includes yeast, baking soda and baking powder. Foods that contain these products include not just bread and crackers, but also many flat breads (and surprisingly, many tortilla shells and ‘pita’ type breads as well). Some dry dog and cat foods also contain active yeast (not Brewer’s Yeast), and there are many other foods that contain leaven or leavening agents that one might not otherwise suspect of being leavened, such as fish sticks. If you start going through your freezer now, and begin eating these foods, then you should have much less to throw away (or burn) just before the Passover.
There are differences of opinion (Read, “arguments”) about whether or not YHWH wants us to throw away foods that contain Brewer’s Yeast and/or Autolyzed Yeast. These are “neutral” forms of yeast that have nutritional value, but which are unable to make food rise. You will have to pray, and then listen for what He wants you to do, but in my understanding, Brewer’s Yeast and Autolyzed Yeast are not “active” forms of yeast. That is, because they are not able to make foods rise, they are not really what Elohim prohibits.
Remembering that Hebrew is an action-oriented language, let us look at the definition of leaven (שְּׂאֹר), so we can understand what YHWH really wants.
OT:7603 se’or (seh-ore’); from OT:7604; barm or yeast-cake (as swelling by fermentation):
KJV – leaven.
The object of “barm” or “yeast cake” (basically sourdough) is defined by the root word “sha’ar,” (שָׁאַר). This word defines an action of making something swell (i.e., leavening).
OT:7604 sha’ar (shaw-ar’); a primitive root; properly, to swell up, i.e. be (causatively, make) redundant:
KJV – leave, (be) left, let, remain, remnant, reserve, the rest.
If a leavening agent (such as sourdough starter) can be used to make food rise, then YHWH probably wants us to remove it from our houses, to make sure that we do not consume it. And if it probably cannot be consumed, then it is probably not really what YHWH wants us to take out of our houses, and hide in our stores and warehouses. (However, again, if you pray and then YHWH directs you to do something different, you should do what He says, instead.)
Some rabbinical authorities also recommend throwing out any toothpaste and/or laundry detergent that contains baking soda. Personally, I do not understand the need for that, as hopefully these products are not consumed. However, if anyone prays and feels convicted of the need to take these things out of his house, then praise YHWH if they do it in His honor.
Health supplements are a different question. For example, there are some anti-cholesterol supplements such as Red Yeast Rice which serve to reduce “bad cholesterol.” On the one hand, these supplements are not used to leaven food. On the other hand, they are taken into the body and are consumed. If you do not feel like throwing out a health supplement because you would just have to purchase it again after the festival, then as a minimum you should take it out of your house, remove it from the borders your house sits on, and keep it out of sight, so that you do not accidentally consume it during the Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Some will feel that it is somehow “bending the rules” not to destroy the leaven, and that it does not live up to YHWH’s intent. If you feel I am wrong on this topic, please write to me kindly and in love, and let me know why you feel differently, backing up your assertions with Scripture. It may happen that YHWH convicts me otherwise (and then again, He may not). However, the main thing is that you test this advice against His word, and hold fast to it only if it is good.
Thessaloniqim Aleph (1st Thessalonians) 5:21
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
But what is the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened really all about? What is the true spiritual meaning? I could be wrong here, but in my mind, Yeshua sums it up best when He tells us that the leaven represents hypocrisy.
Luqa (Luke) 12:1-3
12 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.
3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”
Are any of us really free from hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is when we pretend to be more virtuous than we really are. It is defined as falseness. It is phoniness. It is being “puffed up.” Isn’t that what leaven is really all about?
We are supposed to take heed to our spirits all year round, but for eight days we are supposed to take extra special care to rid ourselves of phoniness, falseness, feigned virtuousness, and of prideful thoughts. For eight days we are supposed to take extra special care to be broken and humble before Him.
Tehillim (Psalms) 51:17
17 The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart —
These, O Elohim, You will not despise.
Funny, being broken and humble seems that is what all of His festivals are about.
I pray this will be of some help.