This year we are finally getting a bit more understanding of how Pesach (Passover or The Passover) is actually separated from the Chag Ha’Matozt (Feast of Unleavened Bread) . Im going to start focusing on them apart from each other. This year I think Ive been able to get a bit more traction on a problem that comes up every year.
Our house has a lot of fermentation history. Ive done everything from almost starting a naturally leavened bread company, to having actually started a fermented beverage company. I have jars of things in various stages of fermentation, many I have used to make incredible bread. We make sodas that we enjoy on Shabbat that are yeast and bacteria driven.
Ive also changed my diet and lifestyle over the last 18 months to a much more reduced carbohydrate paradigm, sometimes even ketogeneic. Our kids eat bread, but it is pretty minimal. So we dont have a lot of it normally. But I have been working on a concept for a coffee cafe which will include biscuits so I do make them,a nd eat small samples occasionally.
The point is, I know a lot about, and have a lot of stuff about fermentation. Yeast and bacteria. And each year, I have to wrestle with what leaven is, how to participate with the commands about it during this week, and how to practically observe it with a whole heart. I dont want to be tricking myself into doing things simply because I dont want to give up a practice or a product or a food. It isnt convenient, or potentially possible to reinnoculate my ferments.
It sure is tempting to try and work around this. My brain goes through gymnastics every year:
“I could just store them all in the fridge in the garage”
“I could have someone keep them for me this week and go get them back”
“I should just throw it all out, and find other starters after the holiday”
“We dont actually KEEP this holiday, we arent in the land, there is no Temple you dont have to try”
There are loads more that swirl around. But my heart doesnt want to argue OUT of this. Deep inside I believe there is a way to keep this, even in part, doing my best with a whole heart. Im sure I dont do it perfect, or perhaps even right. But when Yeshua comes back, I want Him to look at me and say “I love you man, and you went for it with everything you had. You were faithful(l) with all your mnd, sould and strength. Now Im going to help you get it all and blow your mind”
The Game of Principles
- Obedience isnt optional. It is voluntary, but Ive made my choice, Im in, and I want to do it.
- Obedience is a reward. I GET to do this, and I get to enjoy it. Being able to know this stuff, and being able to respond to it IS freedom to me.
- Obedience is proportional. Im limited in my understanding, and I can only go with what I know or understand.
- I give way. If something needs to be changed, it is on my side of the relationship. I conform to Torah. I dont look for a way to have Torah conform to me. The teachings and instructions are for my good, and the more I submit to them, the better.
- It really isnt questionable. If something seems to be unclear, or could go either way, then go with the harder option. Dont back off of a harder choice simply because it is hard. Try to take a swing at it. It is easy to try and make things gray, or ambiguous. Often that is resistance to obedience.
- When in doubt, pray, try it, and take notes for next year!
These are some of the ways I try to come to decisions. I do not want to treat obedience to Torah as a goofy experiment. This is real to me. Honestly it seems like a process, experiment, adventure … that is what it is! Im trying things Im not clear on, and hoping for the best. I dont have traditions, nor do I have community. Even if I did, that isnt Torah, but it would help.
What is Matzot?
Matzah is the root (as far as my limited Hebrew can deduce) for this idea. The link covers every reference to the root and it always seems to describe unleavened bread. Duh, but this might be so simple it is easy to overlook. The Feast is Chag Ha’Matzot. It is the appointed time where we eat bread the isnt leavened.
Chronologically, the first reference to unleavened bread is when Abraham is in Mamre, and has visitors, later realized to have been divine. He had bread made, and simply did it quickly. It didnt have time to rise. I know natural leavening. If you use enough levain to rise something fast, it still takes an hour or more, and it will be so sour it wont bake/brown correctly, and has a high pucker factor! This event is simply make some quick bread to use to eat with some yogurt or something similar, and meat.
The next mention is the actual Pesach event. The simple thing to me is that it was known. There is regular bread apparently, and bread you dont let rise. It is probably a simple and practical idea. But Yah calls it out specifically, in advance. At least 2 weeks ahead of the Pesach event (because later rituals are memorials, not the actual event) he says to do the lamb slaughter, and eat it with unleavened bread.
Wouldnt they have had some left over bread from that day/morning? Every day, you make bread, and you make as much as you can use. You probably wake up the next day and eat what was left. This is a change in routine, on purpose. Make the bread right there, with the lamb, and eat it all quick.
I cannot prove this from scripture, but I have a hunch. If you look at modern groups who make and eat bread daily, they prep their dough the night before, and then the next morning bake it for the day. The fermentation process isnt just for texture. It preserves the grain, and changes the nutrient capacity, reduces some sugars, makes it easier to bake completely. Overall, the whole product is very different when completely fermented. It takes at least 6-8 hours, more like 12 to bring this process to the end.
Is it possible the Hebrews prepped their dough, and that night took some (or all) out early to bake with the meal? And then the deliverance happenned, and they grabbed their stuff, including their kneading troughs, and left. They cooked their dough on the way, or possibly ate the extra from the Pesach meal? Maybe they cooked the whole batch that night and grabbed the left overs.
The point is, God calls out unleavened specifically, in advance. It was a change in routine, and abnormal. And it became the example and the name of the whole memorial event. the whole festival is about the quick and hurried interruption of the normal. But it also had an advance warning. It is about bread, and it not being able to be leavened because of time, and possibly intent. But it is possible that all they did is cook it earlier than normal, and that is why it is “un” leavened. I can easily make bread, and “underprove” it, or bake it early if I dont have time. It doesnt taste as good, and if I dont bake it right, can make my tummy grumpy.
Unleavened bread vs leavening
This is where more confusion sets in. I feel like it is pretty clear above “Dont have leavened bread in your house for a 7 days”. Ok fine. Throw out any puffy risen bread. But then we get to the crux of my dilemma
[Exo 12:15 ESV] 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
Not to be too simple but here are some key points
- The first day of this 7 days period is when you throw out leaven. Similar to Sukkot, the first day is when the you do the thing. Not the week before. I dont know it is wrong to prep, but at least on that day you execute the activity.
- This is leaven, not leavened bread. This is a different word (Seor), that actually comes from a more fundamental root (Shaar) and it is talking about the thing left over that causes leavening of bread.
- You remove it out of your house. Sounds obvious, but I dont know where you put it? We have trash collection etc… not sure what their method was.
- Anyone who eats what is leavened, or the thing that is leavened. The only thing talked about in this context is bread.
So the best take I can get from this makes it pretty clear:
The leavened thing is bread. Everything references bread. Not wine, not cheese. This isnt about fermentation, it is about bread that is leavened. Obviously this comes from fermentation. But it isnt calling out a specific type of grain, time duration, or any other food product. I have head tons of examples in the jewish traditions about whether legumes are chametz, and the 5 types of grains and 18 mins after contact with water. This is all nuts. If it helps to connect people to a community great but this has 0% to do with the command as far as I can determine.
The thing that does the leavening is the left over dough from a previous batch. Only artisan bakers do this now. But it clearly means to remove your means of leavening. In our home, if we had yeast separate for bread making, I would toss it out. We dont. I dont keep a sourdough starter, but if I did I would toss it out, and make a new one after the feast is over.
But here is a unique (to me) twist…
If I were to make bread, I would use my soda and kombuchas. It makes the best bread. I have spent hundreds of hours researching and making bread. The single best method I know is a 3 ingredient recipe using a “liquid levain”. It is not only more efficient, it is better tasting and handling.
So should I toss all my liquid ferments? I have no way to remake them. They are unique, and I have no resource to get them again. I even have parts of a business reliant on this.
Even if I did have a external resource, I would be getting them essentially from sources that dont keep the feasts. I do lots of things in my life with people who dont keep the feats, or kosher at all. That isnt a problem. But why would I have to engage something non Torah to fulfill Torah?
It is clear to me this isnt addressed in scripture. The issues is how to keep it in my heart, and be faithful. Realizing that Seor is actually talking about leftover dough helps me to realize that the context is specifically bread, bread dough, and left over dough as a starter. I can make bread out of anything unpasteurized. Beer works well. Raw cheese/whey. I can make puffy things from manipulating ph with baking powder or baking soda. We use baking soda for cleaning too, should I toss it?
No. Because the point is leavened bread, and the left over dough that does the leavening. The point is the making of something out of the norm. The point is the deliverance of Yahweh can come so quickly, even after years of slavery. The point is when you hear the directions, respond in faith, prep, wait, and then go for it when you hear the signal.
If it helps someone to know what we did:
We did remove leavened breads (1 loaf of Ezekiel bread), and the BP and BS I sued for biscuit prep. In hindsight, I think I could have just kept it aside as Im going to simply buy more later. We removed flour tortillas, and anything made with them, because they are leavened with BP and BS. We are going to go through the house and make sure any prepared foods (frozen burritos for examples) are tossed. We arent throwing them away. We gave them to our dear friends who dont keep the feasts.
Im ok with drinking wine, but I wont have beer this week. It is basically liquid bread. It is simply a personal way of keeping this. I dont think it qualifies, but I want my heart to adhere to the “when in doubt” part. I have our sodas, but only for the weekly Shabbat.
Each day this week we are going to make unleavened flat breads. We are going to sit down and eat them. We have to do this intentionally. We dont normally eat bread in any significant amount. So in an odd way, we are keeping this by eating matzoh, not being switching to unleavened bread. We have to focus on doing this, and keep the festival this way.
This is not something Im clear on. I think I get the idea and yet I dont have any understanding or application of it in my modern life. Im not a farmer, I dont present my barley or spring harvest. But I see this as the resurrection day, as well as the start of the counting of the omer. I hope to learn a lot more about this as we go forward.