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Hag HaMatzot - Feast of Unleavened Bread


The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot) is associated with Passover and follows immediately after it, starting on Nisan 15, for seven days (Lev 23:6-8, Num 28:17-25). The main requirement of this festival is that no leaven was to be eaten or even found in the house during this time (Ex 12:15-20, Dt 16:3,4). Leaven is a small agent, yeast (or similar) that ferments, causing bubbles which permeate the dough and cause bread or cakes to rise. Unleavened bread (Matza) is called the ‘bread of affliction’ and is a reminder that when the Israelites left Egypt, they left in haste so that the bread did not have time to rise.


TODAY’S PRACTICE

Before Passover, observant Jews will do a total houseclean, cleaning out every cupboard and removing every speck of dust from the house, and scrubbing every surface. (Is this the origin of the term ‘Spring Clean’?). Shops in Israel cover over all foods that contain yeast, and ordinary bread is almost impossible to find, unless you travel to an Arab area. On the evening before Passover, there is a traditional search for leaven through the house and fires are lit in the streets into which are thrown the last remaining pieces of bread, cakes etc, much to the delight of the children.


Leaven, according to the rabbis, represents the ‘evil impulse of the heart’ (Berechot 17a). Rabbi Yeshua frequently referred to leaven as representing evil or sinful teachings or practices (Matt 16:6,11-12, Lk 12:1f). Paul also said that “a little leavens the whole lump” referring to those who were bringing disturbance into the congregations.


FULFILMENT

This Feast is a mirror of Jesus as the sinless sacrifice who was able to do away with the priestly sacrifices in the Temple and become our sacrificial lamb, taking our sins upon Himself. “He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). He is the one who has been pierced and striped for our transgressions (Is 53:6). He has eaten the bread of affliction, that we might be free of sin. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, meant that we also can be made clean from sin. “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). When His sinless body was wrapped and buried, our sin was buried with Him. “…having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12). We are made perfect by His sacrifice “For by one offering, He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”(Heb 10:14).


It is also worth noting that Jesus’ physical body was not allowed to see corruption, but was raised from the dead before this could happen (Ps 16:10).


As a thanksgiving for this, Paul tells us that we are to “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover has also been sacrificed. Let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor 5:7,8). Our response to His affliction needs to be to live the sanctified life we are called to live, in grateful appreciation for His sacrifice for us.