The Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread(s)
On the Meaning of Leavening
By David M Rogers
Published: May 2015
Table of Contents
The Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread is the first of the three annual pilgrimage festivals unto Yehovah and as such is loved by those who serve Yehovah and keep his commandments. Rich in history and meaning, Chag HaMatzot - the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread - recalls the experience of our forefathers in their deliverance from bondage and their subsequent walk in freedom with the Almighty. By eating unleavened bread for seven days we remember and experience over and over again the joy of freedom we have in Yahuwah our Maker.
"On that same night I will pass through Mitzrayim and strike down every firstborn-- both men and animals-- and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Mitzrayim. I am Yahuwah. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Mitzrayim. "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to Yahuwah-- a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Yisrael.
On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat-- that is all you may do. Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Mitzrayim. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Yisrael, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.
On the heals of the Pesach sacrifice comes the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread. As the sons of Israel were preparing for their deliverance from Egypt, Yehovah instructed Mosheh to have all the people select a year old male lamb on the tenth day of the first month of their year. They were to watch it until the fourteenth day and then sacrifice it, put its blood on their doorposts, roast it in fire and eat it that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
That night as the sun set in the sky was the night portion of the fifteenth day of the month. That same night, the messenger from Yehovah was to pass through Egypt and slay every firstborn in every house unless there was blood from the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts. If so, the messenger of death would pass over that house.
The instructions regarding Pesach included the directive to eat the roasted lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. This was now the first of seven days in which unleavened bread was to be eaten. This day, beginning with the night portion of the day when all Israel ate the Pesach, was to be remembered (commemorated) throughout the generations of the sons of Israel. This first day of the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread was the day Israel marched out of Egypt as a free people on their pilgrimage to meet with their Elohim.
Pesach is not to be confused with the Feast of Unleavened Bread as is often the case for those who are new to such things. The Pesach (or Passover) refers to the day when the lambs were to be slaughtered and then put over the fire to be roasted. The Passover is not a "holy day" according to the Scriptures. But as those lambs were roasting, the day turned into night, which was the night portion of the 15th day of the month and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And so, when the lamb was finished cooking, it was eaten during the night portion of the 15th day of the month with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The 15th day of the month is a holy day.
The importance of eating only unleavened bread is greatly emphasized in this passage of Scripture. Leaven is to be removed from each house in Israel. And if anyone does not follow these instructions, he is to be cut off from Israel. He no longer belongs to the community of Israel. All who claim relationship with the Elohim of Israel and maintain their identity with the people of Israel must remember their freedom journey from Egypt by eating unleavened bread for these seven days.
During the night Pharaoh summoned Mosheh and Aharon and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the sons of Yisrael! Go, worship Yahuwah as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me." The Mitzrites urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said, "we will all die!" So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing.
The sons of Yisrael did as Mosheh instructed and asked the Mitzrites for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. Yahuwah had made the Mitzrites favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Mitzrites. The sons of Yisrael journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. With the dough they had brought from Mitzrayim, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Mitzrayim and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
In the middle of the night Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron to issue his permission for them to leave Egypt with all their possessions. So the people gathered their things to go, but didn't have time to add yeast to their dough. Thus, they left Egypt with their kneading troughs wrapped in clothing and carrying them on their shoulders. So, whenever they stopped to bake their cakes, they had unleavened dough and so baked unleavened bread. Again, the text emphasizes that they were in such a hurry to leave Egypt, they didn't have time to prepare the dough with leavening and thus ate unleavened bread on the beginning portion of their journey.
As we who are returning to our "Hebraic roots" are learning how to celebrate and commemorate these ancient customs, we search the Scriptures for clues how we might do these things the right way. The command to rid our houses of all yeast has been carried out to an extreme. Zealous followers of Yehoshua think they have to meticulously search every nook and cranny of the house for crumbs so that they get all the yeast out. This has turned into a spring cleaning because this is how the rabbis have taught that this command must be carried out. As a result, we have emphasized what should be minor in our thinking and have diminished the really important thing that we should remember.
It's all about the bread! I have no interest in telling anyone not to do their spring cleaning or not to sweep up every bread crumb in their homes in preparation for the seven day pilgrimage of unleavened bread. If people are compelled or convicted to meticulously eradicate all traces of leavening from their homes, be blessed in doing it. But, for obedience to the commandment, let's notice that it's all about the bread!
The reason for eating unleavened bread and for ridding our residences of leavening is given several times in the account. Our ancestors did not have time to leaven the bread before they left Egypt. And when we remember these events in history, we are to re-enact the experience of our fathers. Thus, we don't leaven our bread for this week. We eat unleavened bread, just as they did on the beginning of their journey.
It's not about spring cleaning. It's not about finding every product that may contain some product of leavening. It's not about drinking only wine that does not contain any product that may have been processed using some leavening product. It's about the bread!
Thus, the instruction about eating only unleavened bread and getting the leaven out of our houses should not be thought to be a burdensome task. We should not be fretting over this thing. The command is simple and easy to perform. Eat unleavened bread for the seven days. And get the sour dough out of our houses. That's all there is to it. It's easy. It is a simple remembrance and re-enactment of our forefathers and their hurry to get out of Egypt. They simply didn't have time to put the leaven in the bread. They left with bread dough without the leavenening.
Again in Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16, we are told of the reason for the unleavened bread:
Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Pesach of
Yahuwah your Elohim, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of
Mitzrayim by night. Sacrifice as the Pesach to Yahuwah your Elohim
an animal from your flock or herd at the place Yahuwah will choose as a
dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast,
but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction,
because you left Mitzrayim in haste-- so that all the days of your life
you may remember the time of your departure from Mitzrayim. (Devarim
When we observe this re-enactment every year for the rest of our lives, we are reminded of the power of Elohim to rescue his people and the suddenness and quickness of our departure from the clutches of Pharaoh and his enslavement of Yehovah's people.
Today, in the month of Abib, you are leaving. When Yahuwah brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Yebusites-- the land he swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey-- you are to observe this ceremony in this month: For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to Yahuwah. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders.
The explanation of the exodus in the Book of Exodus 13 gives further detail and clarification about how those events are to be remembered from year to year. First, these events occurred in the month of the Aviv. The Aviv is a well known reference to the condition of the barley crop in the early spring. When the barley is past the flowering stage and the kernel has developed and is soft and could be eaten, it is said to be "aviv."
This month of the aviv is the first month in the year:
This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. (Shemot 12:2)
So, when the new moon is sighted in the early spring and the barley is aviv, that is, soft and in a state in which it can be eaten, then the new year is declared. This is the month of the aviv. The barley can be harvested and waved before Yahuwah. It is the new year.
But if the new moon is sighted and the barley is not yet ready to be harvested, then that month is not the first month of the new year. It is part of the old year. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is to be observed in the month of the aviv, in the new year, in that first month of the new year.
This instruction that the month of the Aviv is the proper time to observe this remembrance feast is repeated in Exodus 23 and again in Exodus 34:
"Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Mitzrayim. "No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Shemot 23:15)
"Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Mitzrayim. (Shemot 34:18)
This instruction about the month of the aviv and
the new year for Israel flies in the face of the Rabbis teaching which
says that the seventh month is the new year. They have changed the
Yom Teruah, the Day of the Shout to be the beginning of their new year.
Thus, they call Yom Teruah "Rosh HaShanah" which means "New Year."
Yet, Elohim has said that the month of the aviv is the beginning of the
year for Israel. Who will you believe? And whose authority
will you submit to?
Yahuwah's Pesach begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month Yahuwah's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to Yahuwah by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.'"
Leviticus 23 provides some additional instructions for guarding the Pesach and Unleavened Bread. Here we are told that the first day and the seventh day of the Pilgrimage of Unleavened Bread are set apart days. The activities we engage in on these days are different from the activities of any ordinary day. The differences are expressed positively and negatively. The positive command is to "hold a sacred assembly." And the negative command is to do no "regular work" on these days.
On the positive side, the directive to "hold a sacred assembly" is in Hebrew, miqra qodesh. The Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines our word miqra as follows:
explanation, reading; basic meaning: calling
1. a) summons: b) assembly
2. reading, recitation
"Miqra" comes from the root qara' which means to "call, call upon, proclaim, read." Thus, 'miqra' means "reading" or "proclamation." So, these days which are named in Vayiqra 23 are to be times when the message of Scripture is "proclaimed" by the "reading" of the Scriptures. And qodesh means set-apart, separated, holy.
The miqra qodesh is a "holy assembly" or a "set-apart summons." The idea is that the sons of Israel are to gather together for a set apart time of reading and proclaiming the Word of Elohim. The assembly of the saints is for corporate worship of Yahuwah. Thus, these set apart times are not for sitting on our hands. We are to actively participate in the recognition, teaching and proclamation of the works of Yahuwah our Maker which is done on our behalf.
On the negative side, the command tells us to do no regular work. This regular work refers to the everyday activities of conducting business and making a living and includes the normal work of our hands, buying and selling, and anything else that people do to take care of the basic issues of maintaining food, clothing and shelter. The prohibition to do no regular work is to clear the way so that we may give ourselves fully and completely to the honoring and worshipping of the One who provides all these things for us, and who redeems our lives unto Him.
Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Pesach of Yahuwah your Elohim, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Mitzrayim by night. Sacrifice as the Pesach to Yahuwah your Elohim an animal from your flock or herd at the place Yahuwah will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Mitzrayim in haste-- so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Mitzrayim. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days.
Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. You must not sacrifice the Pesach in any town Yahuwah your Elohim gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Pesach in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Mitzrayim. Roast it and eat it at the place Yahuwah your Elohim will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents. For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to Yahuwah your Elohim and do no work.
This instruction in Deuteronomy 16 gives us a summary of what we have already learned in earlier passages about the time and manner in which we are to remember the Pesach and the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread. The sacrifice of the Pesach, the eating of unleavened bread for seven days, a sacred assembly on the first and seventh days, and the doing of no work on those assembly days are the points repeated from earlier Scriptures.
But this teaching also gives us new information about where we are to observe these things when we enter into the Land. The first Pesach was slaughtered and eaten in the tent of each family that participated in the event. But the Pesachs, going forward, were to be slaughtered and eaten "at the place Yahuwah will choose as a dwelling for his Name." At the time of the giving of this instruction, Israel was still in the wilderness and had not yet entered into the Land.
After Israel crossed over the Yarden under the leadership of Yehoshua and entered the Land, the whole nation slaughtered and ate the Pesach as a community at Gilgal in the plains of Yericho. There, in the presence of Yahuwah, all Israel participated in the Pesach and ate unleavened bread.
Moses instructed Israel to eat the Pesach in the place where the Presence of Yahuwah was dwelling. This is interpreted a few verses later as meaning that Israel could not eat the Pesach just anywhere they wanted to. They could not eat it in their own towns and places where they all lived. It had to be eaten in the place of the Presence of Yahuwah himself.
This, of course, raises the question about where we should be "celebrating" the Pesach in today's world. To answer this question we must first ask the question, "What is the purpose of the requirement of going up to the place where Yahuwah's Presence dwells?" The reason everyone is to go up to that Place is to appear before Yehovah and with something to offer. But since the Shekinah (presence) of Yehovah is no longer in Jerusalem or any other specific place on earth, even if we were to go up to Jerusalem, we would not be appearing before him to offer up our praises and offerings. He is simply not there.
Support for this view comes from Yeshua himself
in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. In
response to a question about where the proper place to worship is,
Yeshua responded: Believe
me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on
this mountain nor in Yerushalayim.... Yet a time is coming and has
now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and
truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (4th Gospel
Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Yerushalayim.... Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (4th Gospel 4:21-23)
So, with the destruction of the temple, there is no need to go up to worship Yehovah at the three appointed times because Yehovah is NOT THERE. Just as Yeshua said, now is the time when we are NOT worshipping the Father at Jerusalem. We are to worship him in spirit and in truth wherever we are.
The prophet Yechezqel (Ezekiel) addressed this issue of how Yahuwah would be with his people while they were scattered across the world in exile.
"Therefore say: 'This is what Adonai Yahuwah says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.' "Therefore say: 'This is what Adonai Yahuwah says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Yisrael again.' (Ezekiel 11:16-17)
The Almighty does not abandon his people. Even in the diaspora, Yahuwah is a sanctuary for his people. As such, wherever people are gathered together in his Name, that is to say, in assembly on His set apart days to worship Him, he is there in their midst as a Sanctuary among them. This seems to be what Yeshua was talking about when he addressed her question about where to worship Elohim.
Thus, Pesach and the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread, along with the rest of the holy days, can be celebrated wherever we gather for that purpose while in the exile. Yahuwah has committed himself to being with us and a Sanctuary among us when we seek to honor him with our obedience to his commandments.
The Master Yeshua provides invaluable insight into the meaning and significance of leaven. In doing so, he reveals hidden meaning regarding the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread. The incident is told of when the disciples and Yeshua crossed the lake after he had produced enough bread to feed all the people. The Pharisees and Sadducees refused to believe that Yeshua was the Messiah sent from Elohim, so they questioned the signs he was showing.
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. "Be careful," Yahusha said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." Aware of their discussion, Yahusha asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The disciples of Yeshua were confused about the bread made of grain which is eaten and the bread of life. So when Yeshua warned them to beware of the yeast (leaven) of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they thought he was speaking about physical bread.
Yeshua explained to his disciples (because he was speaking in a parable and they didn't understand it) that the teaching of Israel's leaders was like leavening mixed into dough. The leaven causes the bread to puff up. The leaven of the Pharisees was their teaching. It puffs them up with false pride and a false sense of self- importance and authority.
The teachings of Israel's leaders who stray from the commandments of Elohim is dangerous. Like leavening, their teachings give them an inflated opinion about themselves. They exalt their own doctrines and traditions above the instructions given by Elohim. To be caught up in their teachings and traditions draws many away from the true worship of the Creator.
The Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread is to remind the true worshippers of Yahuwah to eat the pure, unadulterated Bread of Life and not to mix in man-made doctrines, traditions and commandments. Only the keeping of the commandments of Elohim brings about the righteous walk of faith that Father is seeking in his people. So, the unleavened bread which is eaten for seven days is to remind us, not just to "get rid of sin" out of our lives, but to separate ourselves from man made traditions and commandments which lead us into sin and away from our Living Elohim and obedience to his ways.
Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul instructs his listeners to keep the Pilgrimage Festival of Unleavened Bread. But he gives it a specific meaning. The leaven represents wickedness and malice. The unleavened bread is to represent truth and sincerity. Paul was addressing a situation in Corinth in which a believer was living in open rebellion and sin against Yahuwah. He was breaking a very clearly worded instruction about sexual behavior in the assembly. And the Corinthians were okay with that!
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-- as you really are. For Messiah, our Pesach lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the assembly? Are you not to judge those inside? Elohim will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:6-13)
While it is certainly clear that Paul is encouraging his listeners to "keep the Feast," which is to say, to guard the Feast of Unleavened Bread just as it in written in the Torah of Mosheh, it is also clear that he interprets a correct "keeping" of the Feast to be on a spiritual level, not just on the surface of things.
Keeping the Feast is a spiritual exercise. It's not just about eating bread made without leavening. It has a strong spiritual dimension. This Feast is about walking uprightly before Elohim. It's about serving Him wholeheartedly, not by keeping man's commandments, but by manifesting the working of the Holy Spirit through "sincerity and truth."
Just as Yeshua told his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which means to discern between the truth of the Word and the traditions of men, Paul tells us that the Feast is about our character and integrity. It's about walking in the truth of Yah's Word.
Paul concludes by giving a practical example. Getting the old yeast out, which is a commandment associated with the Pilgrimage Feast of Unleavened Bread, means separating ourselves from those things which contaminate. The example is a brother who refuses to repent and continues to walk in sin and rebellion. Our response to the unrepentant brother is to separate him out of our assemblies. He is to have no part with us. If we don't separate him then we are participating in his evil.
The assembly must remain pure. This requires us to make the hard
choices and rebuke sin wherever we find it. We cannot cohabitate
with sin and people who continue sinning. We must "expel the
wicked man from among" us.