“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread (matstsah). On the first day you shall remove leaven (se’or) from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread (chametz) from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. ” Exo 12:15
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 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 Cor 5:6-8
In the evening of the 14th day of Aviv, the 1st biblical month, at sundown, which is also the beginning of the 15th day of Aviv, we have our Passover supper, which we keep in remembrance of our deliverance from Egypt, and the kingdom of darkness by the blood of Yeshua, our Passover Lamb. The 15th of Aviv is the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, a seven day festival which continues through the 21st day of Aviv. The 1st day (the 15th) and 7th days (the 21st) are high holy Sabbaths – the first two of the special seven annual Sabbaths Israel celebrates as holy convocations to YHVH.
As to how we are to celebrate Unleavened Bread, besides the command to rest, do no customary work, observe a holy convocation to YHVH on the 1st and 7th days, and to offer an offering made by fire for seven days (Lev 23:4-8) this command in Exo 12:15 is the guiding principle. There are two distinct commands within this instruction.
The first is that, for seven days, Israel is to eat unleavened bread, which is matstsah in Hebrew. It means, a dough which is unleavened, dough which has no added yeast to cause the dough to rise. Regular air beaten into the dough is fine – that is still unleavened.
So Israel is not to eat anything baked from dough to which yeast has been added. That means yeast breads of all types, many crackers, and most pastries.
The second command is that, on the first day of the holiday, on the first day of Unleavened Bread, Israel is to remove leaven (se’or) from their houses. Se’or is sugar- eating fungi (yeast) which can be introduced into the dough slowly, or quickly. The slow way is to leave your dough out on the counter for a few days until it sours. That is how traditional sourdough is made. The quick way is to add wet or dry live yeast to a mixture of water, flour, and sugar. Either way, that yeast, and anything made with yeast, is to be completely removed from the house on the 1st day. This includes yeast itself and goods baked with yeast.
Traditionally, anything fermented with yeast from a grain source has also been on the discard list. Let’s look at them one by one.
Beer is made by introducing brewer’s yeast to a grain mash: typically wheat, barley, hops, or a combination thereof. The yeast eats the sugars in the mash, making alcohol as a byproduct. When the sugar runs out, the yeast typically dies. A sediment forms in the bottom of the keg, made of grain mash byproduct and dead yeast, and typically this sediment is removed from the beer before bottling. Moreover, most commercial brewers pasteurize the beer before market which kills any remaining yeast. It is likely that when a commercial beer is purchased from the store, the se’or has already been removed.
Wine is made by introducing brewer’s yeast to a grape mash, creating alcohol as a byproduct as in beer. Wine kegs also collect sediment as in beer, which is typically removed before bottling. It is likely that when a commercial wine is purchased from the store, the se’or has already been removed.
Vinegar is made by introducing brewer’s yeast to a grain or apple mash, most commonly, producing alcohol in a first fermentation similar to beer. Then bacteria is introduced to the alcohol in a second fermentation, with the end product of vinegar, an organic acid. The resulting acid is toxic to both the original yeast and the bacteria, and they die off in the process. As vinegar fermentation also produces a sediment, most commercial vinegars are filtered before market which removes the spent yeast and bacteria. It is likely that when vinegar is purchased from the store, the se’or has already been removed.
Foods brined with vinegar or made with vinegar, such as pickles or ketchup, would be yeast-free if the finished original vinegar was also yeast-free. Additionally, any commercially- made food, including pickles or ketchup, that has been sterilized or pasteurized or canned is yeast-free as sterilizing kills microbes. Thus the se’or has been removed.
Kombucha is made by introducing a SCOBY, a colony of yeast and bacteria, to sweetened black tea. The yeast eats the sugar as it does in alcohol fermentation in order to produce the finished kombucha. If a commercial kombucha has been pasteurized, then the kombucha is yeast-free, thus the se’or has been removed. If it is raw, it would include living yeast cells. Thus the se’or has not been removed.
There is a lively ongoing debate about whether the yeast prohibition extends to alcohol, vinegars, or kombucha, which are not baked goods. Let each one be convinced in his own mind!
For anyone who eats chametz, baked dough made with a yeast leavener, from the first day through the seventh day, will be cut off from Israel. I do not want my wild olive branch, which has been grafted in to the cultivated olive tree of Israel, to be cut off!
And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Rom 11:17-22
Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians teaches us that as we are careful to cleanse our homes from leaven when we keep this feast, let us be just as careful to cleanse our hearts from malice and wickedness so that we may be truly unleavened in our hearts, with sincerity and truth! This is the New Testament, so let us not be unwise, but wise in the Scripture, and truly take our faith and practice from the Word of God and only the Word of God, and not the word of man!
(Post updated in 2019 to remove traditions of man instructions, so as not to add to Torah.)
For further study
Yoel ben Shlomo on Truth2U Radio: Exo 12:15 and Se’or, Chametz, and Matstsah
Exodus 12:15 Hebrew roots study of mahtsah, se’or, and chametz
Exodus 12:14-20 chiastic structure
Celebrating the feasts
Deep clean your home in ten days
Sweeping the (spiritual) house clean