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Thoughts about Unleavened Bread

April 24, 2012

This year was my first year celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread and, as with all things, I learned and grew during the week.  Here are  some of the things I learned:

  • Get thee the leaven out of thy house –
    • There is leaven in a lot more things than I imagined!
    • Some things that appear to be leaven – aren’t
      • autolyzed yeast extract – isn’t leaven.  It’s made from yeast, but it is made from the leftover byproducts of dead cells that can’t cause any leavening action at all.  It is very similar to MSG
        • I took a lot of products with autolyzed yeast extract out of my home and I probably didn’t need to (and won’t next year.)
    • There are different types of leaven.
      • I knew this before but it became important for me as I truly studied the feast.
        • Yeast – This is a living microorganism which eats sugar (carbohydrates) and creates carbon dioxide and ethanol as waste products.  The process by which this occurs is called fermentation. Yes, that’s right, the exact same process which creates wine is also responsible for bread.
        • Bacteria – Some types of bacteria will provide leavening.  Sourdough breads are typically made this way.  It is frequently used in conjunction with yeast.
        • Chemical Leavening Agents –  Generally consist of an acid and an alkaloid which react with one another to produce leavening by chemical reaction.  These compounds are activated by moisture and heat. They are used in “quick breads,” cookies, cakes, etc.
          • Baking Soda and Baking Powder are both examples of Chemical Leavening.
        • Mechanical – By whipping a batter, air can be incorporated into it.  Technically this is a form of leavening, but no one considers this to be leaven for the purpose of the feast.
    • Knowing what we now know about the different types of leaven, are we required to remove all of it and refrain from its eating during the feast?
      • Exodus 12:19 19Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
      • The word  leaven used above is Strong’s H7603
        • This word is se’or and speaks directly to leavening accomplished by fermentation.
        • As we can see from our study on leavening agents, only Yeast and Bacteria leaven by fermentation.
      • Does this mean it is OK to use baking soda (as well as other chemical and mechanical leaving agents) during the feast?
        • Although se’or means fermentation, I have heard it discussed that, when scripture was written, they wouldn’t have known about chemical leavening agents; while this is true – God did know about them and could have used a different word that does not specifically mean fermentation.
        • Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
        • This is only true of biological leavening agents such as yeast and bacteria. If you leaven half a loaf with yeast, the entire loaf will rise. If you leaven half a loaf with baking soda, only the leavened portion rises.
        •  Although I removed all types of leaven from my home this year, I now believe that we are only required to rid ourselves of leavens which work by fermentation.
    • A common position that I hear is that it is not enough to simply remove leaven from the home by placing it outside or into an outbuilding.  The holders of this belief commonly state that we must throw away, burn, or otherwise destroy any leaven we still have on the day before the feast.
      • The point of removing leaven is that leaven is symbolic of sin. We are to remove the leaven from our homes during this week as we are to remove sin from our lives permanently.
        • The supporters of the position that yeast must be destroyed point out that we shouldn’t rid ourselves of sin for a week only to go back to our old sinful ways.
        • I completely agree with this, but to carry their analogy one step further; should we rid ourselves of our old sin only to replace it with new sin that we weren’t committing before? Yah Forbid!
          • Everyone I know who destroys yeast goes out after the feast and buys new yeast –  no one eats matza all year round.
          • Symbolically, if bringing back old yeast is the same as going back to old sin, isn’t buying all  new yeast to replace the old yeast the same as filling the void of our old sinful habits by finding new sinful habits?
          • Exodus 12:15 requires us to put away leaven from our homes.
            • Going to the Strong’s “put away” can mean several things, one of which is to remove.  (To be fair, it can also mean to destroy)
            • Home”  means house. (It also means temple, which adds a layer of depth to this bit of scripture because we are the temple.) Home does not mean outbuildings or land.
          • If the ancient Israelites completely destroyed all yeast every year, where did they get the new yeast from?
            • I don’t think there were any LuLu’s back then.
            • I recognize that the Israelites weren’t baking bread in the desert, hence manna. I’m just pointing out that it wouldn’t have been practical to discard such a resource at this point in history.
            • Commercially produced yeast wasn’t available until the mid-1800’s. Prior to this yeast was saved from previous fermentation and re-used.  It was typical to take the leftovers from wine or beer production and make bread from that.  Sourdough is another example.
        • I don’t feel that scripture either requires or commands us to throw our yeast away, simply to put it out of our homes.
    • If things fermented by yeast are forbidden during the feast of unleavened bread, why is wine universally accepted as OK?
      • I don’t have a good answer for this yet.
        • Frankly, the best answer I have is that it is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread and not the Feast of Unfermented Beverages.
      • Wine is created by the exact same process as bread, and you can use the exact same yeast.
      • As noted above, at the time of the first exodus it is likely that bread making would have involved adding some lees either from beer or wine making or – adding the beverage itself.
      • There is no mention of wine during the account of the first Passover Meal.
        • There is no mention of water or any other beverage either, so it may have just been assumed that some beverage would be drank.
      • I have been told that wine and hard liquor are OK, but beer is not.
        • In wine the alcohol content has risen high enough to kill any remaining yeast.
        • In hard liquor, not only is the alcohol content high enough to kill yeast, it has also been distilled, removing impurities such as yeast.
          • The temperature of distillation kills yeast as well as removing it from the final product.
          • When bread is made by fermentation, all the yeast is killed in the oven. I’m not sure what the difference is between bread and wine as the yeast in both is dead.
            • The difference may be that Bread is already bread and whereas wine is not bread and cannot be used to make bread, in its finished condition.
            • Only in an immature state could one take live yeast from wine and make bread.
        • Beer however, unless pasteurized, has not been heated sufficiently to kill yeast, nor has the alcohol content risen enough to kill yeast. Thus it is possible to have live yeast in beer.
      • Even with the above explanation, scripture doesn’t say to remove all leaven except what is in wine. It says to remove all leaven.
        • I’m still looking for a better answer.
    • What was The Last Supper?
      • There are several varying opinions on this – mine changed enough of my beliefs to justify its own study.
        • Stay Tuned!
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