The Feast of Unleavened Bread or Hag HaMatzot (Khag Ha-MA-tzot) is considered a separate feast that is observed during Passover week. These two Holy Days celebrated together represent the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. This week-long feast is celebrated between 15th and 21st of Nisan on the Jewish calendar and in 2023 it begins at sunset on April 7th, 2023.
The Lord’s Commandment
On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’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 the Lord by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.
The Significance of The Feast of Unleavened Bread
When the Israelites received the word that Pharoah had finally granted their request to leave, they began quickly packing their belongings before the ruler could change his mind. Since there was not enough time for the dough to rise when the Jews fled, the LORD memorialized the event with the commandment to eat only unleavened bread for seven days (Deut.16:3). In addition, when the Jews were wandering in the desert for 40 years, God rained down “bread from heaven” to sustain the nation (Exodus 16:4).
The feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness. Following Passover and the Exodus, they ate unleavened bread for thirty days, which was then substituted by the manna (actual food) that Yahwah Himself provided for the rest of their journey to the promised land of Israel. The fact that it was unleavened signified that they were not taking any of the contaminating influence of Egypt, only the pure bread of life.
What Does Leaven Represent?
Leaven is often seen as a symbol of corruption or evil influence in the Bible. There is a good reason for this interpretation: “leaven” is a remnant of dough that was allowed to rot or ferment. As it is spoiled or fermented, yeast (a fungus) from the air lands on and breeds in the dough. This remnant of “corrupted” dough was then added to the next day’s batch of dough, creating a bread that would rise and grow. Leaven signifies anything that rots and corrupts physically, spiritually, and morally.
Removal of the Leaven
Preparations for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begin a full month before the feast day arrives, just after Purim. Special effort is made to remove any leaven entirely from the home in obedience to the Torah’s command. Every room must be completely cleared of “chametz” or leavened products. This process is very involved and time-consuming. The evening before the Passover, a final search is done for any remaining leaven. Traditionally done by candlelight, any crumbs found are swept onto a wooden spoon with a feather and placed in a bag to be burned the following morning.
The Matzah (Matzo)
Matzah is the only type of bread eaten during the eight days of Passover. It is the simplest form of bread, made only with flour and water and baked quickly to re-enact the Israelite’s hurried departure from Egypt. It is made with kosher flour and water and must be baked within 18 minutes of mixing or it will be declared “chametz” / leavened. The Jewish Torah describes the matzah as the “bread of suffering” and is also known as the “bread of affliction.”
Yachatz, Breaking of the Bread
The matzah is one of the key elements of one of the Passover Seder rituals. Three separate sheets of matzah are inserted into a bag with three compartments, known as the matzah tash. The leader takes the middle matzah, breaks it in two, and puts one half back in the middle of the matzah tash. He then wraps the other half, now known as the afikoman, in a white linen napkin and hides it.
The children are sent to find the afikomen at the end of the dinner. The child who finds it brings it to the leader of the Seder, who redeems the afikoman with a symbolic reward, usually some money or chocolate. According to tradition, the leader of the Seder then unwraps the afikoman, blesses it, and breaks it up into small olive-sized pieces. He then distributes a small piece to everyone seated around the table, and all participants eat the afikoman together.
Jesus – The Bread of Life
The Feast of Unleavened Bread points to Jesus as the bread from heaven without leaven (sin). His life, death, and resurrection parallel the Yachatz ceremony, which shows the middle piece of three sections, broken, hidden, then found, and shared with everyone. Jesus was beaten and broken for our transgression, his glory hidden as he was convicted and nailed to the cross, and in his resurrection, he was revealed (or found) as the “Son of God” and redemption for all to receive and share.
As Jesus ate his last Passover with his disciples, he took the bread (matzah), gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). In this short statement, he revealed his Father’s plan of redemption to save us ALL from our slavery to sin.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Sir, they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
He is Our Bread of Life!