Friday, April 24, 2015

Preparing for the Feast of Unleavened Bread - Spring Cleaning!

This was our first Passover celebration so I had a lot to study and learn. What I found out was that I also had a lot of work ahead of me. You see, the day after the passover is the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread. This requires you to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. However, since you also eat no leaven on the day of Passover you end up going eight days without leaven. Scripture says:

Exodus 12:18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty- first day of the month at evening.

The Passover celebrates when God protected the first born of the Israelites from the angel of death which was the tenth plague against Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins its celebration on the day they were led out of Egypt, the morning after the Passover.

Since Jewish days begin when the sun goes down in the evening, it can get somewhat confusing, especially when it calculates out to eight days but the bible keeps saying for "seven days" you shall not eat leaven. I followed both traditional Jewish and Messianic Jewish websites to help me figure it out.

The feast begins with the leaven being removed from the home. This is where the lengthy preparation comes in. Scripture tells us:
Exodus 12:15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel...19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."
Because it says no leaven is to be found in your houses Jewish tradition teaches that you must clean your house entirely because no means absolutely none - not even one crumb. In fact, this is where our spring cleaning tradition stems from!  Jews literally clean every nook and cranny of their homes to make sure that every crumb can be found and removed!  While I tried to do this to some extent, I did not start early enough!  I am sure there were some rooms with crumbs of bread, but I did clean my pantry and cupboards well. I removed everything that I defined as leaven. At least I meant to, but we will get that! They also use special kitchen utensils this week so that nothing they use ever has touched leaven. Again, I did not go that far.

My definition of leaven and Jewish teaching is different, so keep that in mind. I am going with what the Bible says and celebrating under the freedom that Christ brings. As I already mentioned Jewish people want to make sure that not even one crumb remains in the home, but they also have added to these regulations to be sure that their bread is kosher for Passover. Instead of just removing the leaven they also make sure that only the best grains are used and from only the best fields, so not any unleavened product will do. Then the bread, in order to make sure it doesn't rise without leaven, must be prepared in an exact way under the supervision of a rabbi. It's interesting to learn about. We visited a Jewish Kids website to get many of our ideas for crafts and teaching and they have a video that explains the process in a way kids can understand. It's titled: Matzah: What's Up With It?

I was unable to find the special unleavened foods in my town, but I did find some regular matzah crackers and matso meal. These are kosher, but not for Passover. I allowed myself to make the rest of our unleavened bread and while I did it in under 18 minutes of prep time, I did bake it at a regular temperature so the entire process was longer. We made one homemade matzah cracker under the 18 minute requirement (but not with kosher for Passover ingredients) and it was good, but not as good as the store bought version. Gess and I both loved the Matzah crackers which were our favorite salty snack during this week!

It is also important to not only remove leaven from your home but also to have unleavened bread in your home because you have to actually eat unleavened bread every day.  The bible does say you must eat the bread. Remember the passage above. The last verse says:

Exodus 12:20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread."

Therefore, according to Jewish teaching there must be some unleavened bread eaten each day. I had a lot of fun with this actually. I will be sharing some great recipes at the end of this series. From my own unleavened bread recipe to matzo ball soup, I found eating unleavened bread a fun filled challenge for the week!

Other things I needed for this week were a Seder Plate and the specific items it requires, a Haggadah, a Matzo cloth cover, candles, 4 wine glasses, and the matzah crackers. I will share about each of these in the upcoming weeks.

With all my cleaning done and my items purchased we were finally ready for the Passover. To learn about this I relied on the two books in this photo. A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays and Celebrating Biblical Feasts.

While there is a lot to prepare I have to tell you that so much involvement had Gess more excited for this holiday then she had been for any other. We were studying the Easter story and when the leader mentioned that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Gess threw up her hands and did a big "YES!" I too was excited as this holiday, unlike our usual traditions, was new for us so had not become a routine. I am anxious to share the rest of the story, so be sure to check to back for more Passover Week topics.

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