Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):


Matsah Mayhem!


Nowhere does the Old Testament extend the Unleavened Bread laws beyond bread products to other things which may be acted upon by yeast or other bacteria, such as wine, beer, yogurt, instant soup mixes, sauces, coffee, dog food, etc., nor does it include yeast itself so long as that yeast is not actively being cultured!  What is to be removed from the home are the S'or culture and Chamets [leavened] product of that culture.


by David Pollina


In preparation for this Passover, a preoccupying thought of many is the vast confusion over what is to be removed from our homes for Chag haMatsot -- the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Bread, pasta, beans, wine, beer, and even packaged instant foods containing yeast extract -- something not imaginable to our ancestors -- are all debated, and vary in interpretation from one sect to another.  This year, even coffee is under attack!  I have come to refer to this as "Matsah Mayhem" -- a wild fray of competing traditions through which all must navigate in their desire to be obedient to YEHOVAH's Law.


The Law need not be so confusing however, and it really is not when viewed within the cultural context it was given to us and then extrapolated into our culture today.  So let's turn to a few key passages in the Bible and then seek to understand the words they employ within that context.  Be prepared for some radical revelation and search the Scriptures to confirm...


Exodus 12

טו  שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ--אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵל חָמֵץ, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל--מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן, עַד-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי.

15 Seven days you must eat MATSAH [unleavened bread]; surely the first day you must SHABBAT S'OR [remove that which is left over] from your houses; for whoever eats CHAMETS [leavened bread] from the first day until the seventh day, that person will be cut off from Israel.

יח  בָּרִאשֹׁן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ, בָּעֶרֶב, תֹּאכְלוּ, מַצֹּת:  עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים, לַחֹדֶשׁ--בָּעָרֶב.

18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you must eat MATSAH [unleavened bread], until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.

יט  שִׁבְעַת יָמִים--שְׂאֹר, לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵל מַחְמֶצֶת, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל--בַּגֵּר, וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ.

19 Seven days there must be no S'OR [that which is left over] found in your houses; for whoever eats CHAMETS [that which is leavened], that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a foreigner, or one who is born in the land.

כ  כָּל-מַחְמֶצֶת, לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ; בְּכֹל, מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם, תֹּאכְלוּ, מַצּוֹת.  {פ}

20 You must not eat any CHAMETS [that which is leavened]; in all the places you live you must eat MATSAH [unleavened bread].

לד  וַיִּשָּׂא הָעָם אֶת-בְּצֵקוֹ, טֶרֶם יֶחְמָץ; מִשְׁאֲרֹתָם צְרֻרֹת בְּשִׂמְלֹתָם, עַל-שִׁכְמָם.

34 And the people took their BATSEQ [dough] before it was CHAMETS [leavened], their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.

לט  וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת-הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, עֻגֹת מַצּוֹת--כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ:  כִּי-גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ, וְגַם-צֵדָה, לֹא-עָשׂוּ לָהֶם.

39 And they baked UGGAH MATSAH [unleavened cakes] of the BATSEQ [dough] which they brought out of Egypt, for it was not CHAMETS [leavened] because they were driven out of Egypt, and could not wait, neither had they prepared for themselves any provisions.

Exodus 13

ו  שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת; וּבַיּוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי, חַג, לַיהוָה.

6 Seven days you must eat MATSAH [unleavened bread], and in the seventh day will be a feast to YHVH.

ז  מַצּוֹת, יֵאָכֵל, אֵת, שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים; וְלֹא-יֵרָאֶה לְךָ חָמֵץ, וְלֹא-יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר--בְּכָל-גְּבֻלֶךָ.

7 MATSAH [unleavened bread] must be eaten throughout the seven days; and there must be no CHAMETS [leavened bread] seen with you, and no S'OR [that which is left over] seen with you, in all your territory.

Deuteronomy 16

ג  לֹא-תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל-עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי:  כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן, יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת-יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.

3 You must not eat CHAMETS [leavened bread] with it; seven days you must eat MATSAH LECHEM ONI [the bread of affliction]; for in haste did you come out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.

ד  וְלֹא-יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר בְּכָל-גְּבֻלְךָ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים; וְלֹא-יָלִין מִן-הַבָּשָׂר, אֲשֶׁר תִּזְבַּח בָּעֶרֶב בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן--לַבֹּקֶר.

4 And there must be no S'OR [that which is left over] seen with you in all your territory for seven days; neither can any of the flesh, which you sacrificed the first day at dusk, remain all night until the morning.


All the other passages in the Old Testament relating to the Days of Unleavened Bread simply repeat the key phrases and words used in the selection above.  The root words used have been inserted in these passages, since understanding the meaning of these words will go along way to removing the anxiety often associated with this wonderful season.


The first thing to understand is that life 3,500 years ago was considerably different than it is today!  One did not run out to the local baker or grocer for a loaf of bread, most often, this was made at home.  Likewise, the yeast used in the process was also made at home through a culturing slurry which would catch the bacteria in the air.  חמץ - CHAMETS [leavened bread] is traditionally believed to refer to this yeast, yet as we will explore, this assumption is not supported in the Bible.


Let's have Scripture define it's own terms.


Yeast, and countless other strains of bacteria, live in the air we breath every day.  It is absolutely impossible to rid one's home of yeast, with perhaps the exception of employing a clean-room such as is used to make microchips!  Since most of us do not live at Intel, we have to accept that there will always be yeast in the air.  Exodus 13:7 is actually very clear in that Chamets [leavened bread] is not to be "seen" -- RA'AH in Hebrew -- with us, and this verb in the Niphal tense requires actual visibility.  So whatever Chamets is, we are assured that it is visible to our eyes, and can be fully removed from our homes.  This alone requires a re-evaluation of the Chamets = yeast tradition.


The next thing we find is that in several passages (Ex. 12:15, 19-20, 13:7, Dt. 16:3) we are told to eat מצה -- MATSAH [unleavened bread] whilst not eating Chamets.  Both must therefore be edible.  This can hardly be said for a bacteria.  Then, we see that בצק -- BATSEQ ("dough") can become Chamets (Ex. 12:34, 39).  Well that nails the case shut -- dough certainly doesn't become yeast.  Does it?


Chamets is a root verb which can carry several meanings.  Relating to things ingested it basically means "to be sour".  It can also carry the meaning of "to be bright coloured" (especially of red), or be used figuratively for "to act violently".


In the ancient world, there was only one way to make leavened bread.  First, one had to catch and culture yeast from the air by making a slurry and leaving it out for about three days.  When enough yeast had been grown, a dough of flour was made and then mixed with the slurry.  Part of the dough was shaped, allowed to rise, and then baked.  The other part of the dough was left out to continue the growth of the yeast.  The next day, more dough was made and added to the 'left out' part from the day before, with part being baked, and part left out again.


This process creates what we today call "sourdough" bread, and the continual 'leaving out' is called a "starter"Chamets as a noun is the result of this process -- sour bread.  The sourness is caused by yeast, but the word Chamets refers only to the bread which had been 'soured', not to the yeast which is the agent in that process.  This should not at all surprise us, for why would the ancients have a word for something like yeast which they could not see?!  There would have been no concept in their minds that the souring is caused by a microscopic bacteria -- they saw a slurry or Batseq that tasted Chamets.


By contrast, Matsah simply means "that which is sweet"!  Of all the times it is used in the Old Testament, Matsah is referring to a sweet form of bread -- one without the leavening process which would have turned it into Chamets -- sour bread.  Thus we find that Matsah and Chamets are simply two different kinds of bread product.


Tying this ancient understanding all together for us is the word שאר -- S'OR -- often mistranslated "leaven".  The verbal root of this noun is שאר -- SHA'AR, meaning "to remain, be left over, or left behind", so the noun must literally mean "that which is left over"!  Remember how Chamets was made -- by growing yeast, making bread, but leaving some over to the next day?  This process is precisely what the word speaks about, and that meaning has been forgotten in modern translation rooted in modern culture.


To further cement this point, like Chamets, S'or is also something which must be visibly seen (Ex. 13:7, Dt. 16:4) and be able to be completely removed from the home (Ex. 12:15, 19).  It too can therefore not be yeast, and fully makes sense within the context of ancient practice.  Now the command in Exodus 12:15 also becomes clear -- to Shabbat S'or -- to cease leaving out!  Without the continuation of a yeast culture left out (S'or) to the next day, there would be no way to make sour bread (Chamets).


So the instruction is simply for us to:


1.    Remove all leavened bread products from our homes.

2.    Not eat any leavened bread products.

3.   DO eat unleavened bread products.


Nowhere does the Old Testament extend these laws beyond bread products to other things which may be acted upon by yeast or other bacteria, such as wine, beer, yogurt, instant soup mixes, sauces, coffee, dog food, etc., nor does it include yeast itself so long as that yeast is not actively being cultured!  What is to be removed from the home are the S'or culture and Chamets [leavened] product of that culture.


We can clearly establish that other fermented things are not Chamets by examining the sacrificial commands.  Chamets is forbidden in most sacrifices (see Ex. 23:18, 34:25, Lv. 2:11, 6:17, compare Lv. 7:13, 23:17), while יין -- YAYIN ("wine") and שכר -- SHEKAR ("beer, or other fermented grain alcohol product") are allowed (see Num. 28).  In fact, throughout Tanach, Yayin and Shekar are often used in poetic pairings and even interchangeably (Ex. 29:40 compare Num. 28:7).  Thus, it is obvious that fermented beverages are not Chamets, and if they were meant to be restricted for the Days of Unleavened Bread, we could expect them to be listed separately.  Further, Numbers 6:3 even distinguishes Yayin and Shekar from Chomets Yayin and Chomets Shekar -- vinegar made from wine and beer respectively.  In such a context though, Chomets is still not Chamets, but is being used in the 'sour' sense.


So, exactly how long does it take for Batseq [dough] to become Chamets [leavened]?  Rabbinic tradition states that any flour which has been combined with water becomes Chamets in 18 minutes, but such is completely untenable in the context of Exodus 12:34 and 39.  Notice there how the Batseq [dough] had already been made prior to leaving Egypt, yet it was not until much later when it was baked, and at that time the Bible tells us it was still not Chamets [leavened].  We know that the Exodus started late in the day, and took all night (Dt. 16:1).  We also know from our passage above that the baking was accomplished on hot stones -- the meaning of UGGAH.  So at a minimum, it appears that the dough had been sitting for 12-16 hours before being baked -- a far different story than the Rabbinate tradition!  Accordingly, there is no way to logically consider pasta to be Chamets [leavened].


Lastly, there is a wonderful phrase in Deuteronomy 16:3, calling Matsah לחם עני -- LECHEM ONI, often translated "the bread of affliction".  It is not that the bread is bad tasting, but it is to remind us of the bondage from which YEHOVAH released us.  At the same time, the sweetness of the bread reminds us of His freedom.


Putting all this into practice greatly clarifies our understanding of the Law and how to follow the requirements for preparing for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread today.  We are to remove and not eat any leavened bread products -- bread, crackers, cakes, and the like -- this being the primary instruction.  While ancient practice would not speak directly to modern alternatives such as baking soda/powder, when relating to bread products I still view them as the same thing in that they defeat the positive commandment to eat what our ancestors ate when they left Egypt and thus remember YEHOVAH's deliverance.  Other than that, pasta is perfectly fine, as is wine, beer, coffee, yoghurt, or any non-bread product that might contain yeast, yeast extract, or baking powder/soda such as instant soup mixes, sauces, dog food, etc.  Packaged dry yeast in the cupboard is not Chamets in the Biblical definition unless it is combined with water and activated anymore than the yeast in our air is.  What our ancestors would have given for that convenience, eh?!



Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.

Scan with your
Smartphone for
more information