The season of Passover will soon be upon us, and as it is with all of the feasts, we need time to prepare our hearts for this important season. Within the Jewish faith, there is always a time of preparation before the feasts. In the fall, the sixth month of Elul is a time of preparing the heart for the fall feasts. In the springtime, the month of Adar is used to prepare ourselves for this important spring season.
As with all the feasts, we don’t rush headlong into any one of them. We warm up to them; we prepare our hearts spiritually, emotionally and physically. You have heard the expression: “He who fails to prepare is preparing to fail.” If we want to experience a time of refreshing and spiritual renewal from these feasts, we must be willing to prepare our hearts to experience all that these Spring feasts offer.
And remember, these are God’s appointed times. Moses said in Lev. 23:1,2 “these are my appointed feasts”, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” God said, These are my appointed feasts! God instituted the Spring and Fall feasts as His appointed times. Just think of them as His appointments with us. He expects us to honor and keep these appointments with Him throughout the year, as we would with someone very special. Who could be more special than the King of the Universe?
Passover, as we know, is the one of the most important of the seven biblical feasts. It is the first feast observed on the Jewish calendar, and begins the cycle of feasts for the year.
One reason it is so important is that it represents our birth as a nation, and the anniversary of our ancestors’ freedom after 400 years of slavery. So important was this day that God chose to punctuate this time as the beginning of months. God said in Ex. 12:1 “This shall be the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you”.
The story of this ancient feast has been observed in every generation for the past 4000 years. It is one of the oldest festivals still celebrated in the world. Even though it is an ancient feast that has been observed for centuries, there is a newness and a freshness to its observance every year; perhaps, it is because God chose to institute the first four feasts on the calendar during the Spring season, when everything is coming to life — a time of new and fresh beginnings. So, also, God wants to do something new and fresh in our lives during this season.
“This day shall be to you a memorial and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.”
In the Jewish community, as soon as Purim is over, it is traditional to begin the process of doing a thorough spring house cleaning in preparation for Pesach. It is a painstaking ordeal that begins weeks before Passover. Walls are washed and painted, all kitchen cupboards and closets are cleaned, scrubbed and washed, as well as all the appliances: refrigerator, the stove, microwave oven. All cooking utensils are scalded, clothing is washed with pockets turned inside out, carpets, couches and chairs are cleaned, vacuum bags are discarded and even special dishes are brought out for this feast. Everything in the home is scrubbed, scoured, cleaned and aired in preparation for Passover. In addition, everything with leaven is to be removed from the home.
This includes all food and drink made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or their derivatives. This includes cereals, pasta, baking agents and so on. All the chometz is stored in a sealed container and removed from the home and stored in the garage or in a neighbor’s home. Matzoh is the only type of bread that can be eaten during the seven days of unleavened bread.
On the night before Passover, there is a special ceremony that the Father performs called the Bedikat Chametz or searching for the leaven. This ancient ceremony is intended to purge the final remains of any leaven in the home. Early in the morning, the mother will place a few bits of bread in several corners or on windowsills of the house so that there will be some leaven to be found. After reciting the blessing, the Father and the children begin the search with a wooden spoon, a candle and a feather.
As they find the crumbs scattered throughout the house, the Father sweeps up the crumbs of leaven and puts them in a bag and then, the bag, spoon and candles are taken out of the house and burned.
Why did God give such a strong command regarding leaven? It is because of what leaven symbolizes. That is why Shaul, in 1 Co. 5:6-8, used leaven to convey a spiritual truth.
I believe that this commandment to thoroughly clean your house before Passover is a powerful picture of God’s purpose for us to do some thorough spiritual housecleaning in our own lives. God wants us to sweep our lives clean.
It reminds me of a scripture from the book of Nehemiah 4:10- “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” They were overwhelmed with all the rubbish that had piled up over the years, and it was difficult for them to do the work, because they had to first remove all the rubbish.
One purpose of spring house cleaning is to get rid of the rubbish, the clutter and the junk that has piled up over the past year, and to get your house clean and organized again so you can find what you’re looking for. I know that Eli doesn’t have that problem. He is always super organized. That is what we are doing right now. Jan is over half way done cleaning our house. The joke around our house is that my office is like the Bermuda triangle, the black hole. Everything seems to disappear into it. I spend so much time looking for things that I cannot find and sometimes I surprise myself by finding things where they are supposed to be.
Isn’t this a picture of our lives? How much rubbish, junk and baggage do we collect in our own lives throughout the year?
We keep carrying around our rubbish like spiritual packrats and then we wonder why we do not walk in more victory and power in our lives. As Nehemiah said, the strength of God’s people is failing because there is so much spiritual rubbish that needs to be cleaned out of our lives. We need to be swept clean. How often are we guilty of having wrong attitudes, walking in pride, displaying outbursts of anger, being critical and judgmental of others, quarreling, holding unforgiveness in our hearts, and not wanting to make amends with those we may have offended?
Leaven, in scripture, is often pictured as sin.
Ancient Rabbis believed that leaven represents the evil impulses of the heart. Leaven is a very vivid picture of sin. Just as rapidly as leaven can permeate the dough and sour it and cause it to rise very quickly without changing the weight so does sin in our lives.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread, being observed for seven days, becomes a reminder that we are to come out of Egypt and stay out of Egypt.
“Seven days shall you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your homes, for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt, therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”
What is leaven? It is known in Hebrew as Chometz. It literally means sour. Leaven is used to produce fermentation, especially in bread dough. As you add lukewarm water and yeast together in the dough, tiny gas bubbles are produced which causes the dough to rise (notice not hot or cold water but lukewarm). It takes only 18 minutes for the yeast to work through the dough and cause it to rise.
It works very quickly, and that is why God compares leaven to sin. God strictly forbids the eating of anything with leaven during these seven days. Even the presence and the very sight of leaven was forbidden. No leaven shall be seen among you in all your quarters and in all your territory for seven days. Ex. 13:7 Any leaven, no matter how small the amount or how discreet its presence, was not permitted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was not enough to simply refrain from eating leaven while it is was still in the home. All leaven was to be removed from the house and burned.
The punishment for not obeying was to be cut off from the house of Israel and never to return. God views sin very seriously. Sin can spread very quickly in a person’s life or in a Congregation if it is not dealt with.
A little sin that is ignored will, in time, work its way through the entire congregation and defile the whole body. If you stop and think about it, God’s prohibition of leaven during these seven days was quite remarkable. Bread is a staff of life. It is leaven that makes the bread more desirable.
The sternness of this command was to impress upon one’s heart the seriousness of sin. God is saying to us that every man, woman, or child who comes to Him for salvation must put away the former things, and not leave one particle of the spirit of this age in him. It doesn’t take much leaven to leaven the whole lump of dough. A little sin in one’s life can work through the whole person and defile them. That is why God says, Put it away. Don’t let it be seen in your house. Keep away from sin. Remove it from your presence. I will set no evil before my eyes. Paul said in 2 Co. 6:17 – Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and do not touch what is unclean.
It can be seen that the separation of leaven from the camp of Israel was symbolic of the separation of Egypt from Israel. It is the division between light and darkness. It is worth noting that in Ex. 12:17 when God brought his people out He said, I have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: The word armies speak of warfare. We can only be redeemed and sin can only be conquered through warfare. Yeshua went to war for us against sin and He conquered it. So also, a war continues today between the flesh and the Spirit.
“The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. And those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit…”
The Feast of Unleavened bread speaks of an ongoing process after salvation. It symbolizes our daily walk with Messiah.
We are now living in the season of the Feast of Unleavened Bread where purity of heart and separation from sin is required in our lives on a daily basis. This is called sanctification. If we have come out of Egypt, we must keep Egypt out of us.
Continued in Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4
written and / or assembled by Cal Goldberg, Rabbi, Beth Shechinah
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