What is is from a Hebraic & Historical Perspective
By Mary Schnoebelen
Taking a delicious, nutritious steaming loaf of bread out of the oven - its delightful smell wafting through the house like incense - is for most absolutely edifying. If you’ve visited my Blog on our website you’ll see more ‘Bakery’ recipes than any other kind! There’s a reason for that! My personal health and wellness –my very life - has depended on making HUGE changes over the past six years in my diet. So my Blog represents a progression from what I call ‘Heritage’ recipes akin to Paleo, to Vegetarian to what Bill and I believe is the absolute best way to eat – a plant-based diet filled with good greens, healthy starch and fiber-rich proteins from YAHUWAH’s bounty.
Since 1992 I have been doing my utmost to adhere to Torah to the full extent of my understanding – which as we all know changes over time as we learn and grow in His Word! In the past six years since Bill and I have been married (well, six years in May – can you believe it!?), my journey feels like it’s been at warp speed. That’s another story for another time…but the point is that what I understand NOW to be explicit in YAHUWAH’s Word is far deeper, richer and life-changing than what I knew and understood 25 years ago – and that is as it should be. Thank goodness even I can eventually make progress! HALLELUYAH! So it only stands to reason that what I understand now about ‘Getting the Leaven Out’ is vastly different than what I thought I knew way back then…
Please understand, Abba’s Commandment - His mandate concerning leaven – isn’t meant to instill fear of ‘forgetting something’ or ‘making a mistake’. Instead, we can obey His mandate with confidence and shalom with its intended instruction. As both a Set-Apart Believer and Baker, I’m really excited by what I’ve discovered! So, let’s look at Abba’s basic recipe for obedience and shalom as intended for this Commandment:
We all know there are vast, innumerable differences between ancient Hebraic culture and how we live today. This includes every aspect of agriculture, HOW FOOD IS PREPARED and what we eat. The fundamentals of bread-making today, even using organic wheat, grains and other ingredients are NOTHING akin to the time consuming, labor intensive bread-making recipes of Moshe’s day. They didn’t have yeast in readily available packets. So how did the People seeking the Promised Land make bread? As of today, I’m 99.9% sure what RUACH has shown me through Scripture is at least some of what Abba’s intentions are in Exodus (SHEMOTH) Chapter 12, where He emphatically states:
‘And ye shall guard the Feast of MATSTSAH; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Mitzrayim: therefore shall ye guard this day in your generations by an ordinance FOREVER. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, ye shall eat MATSTSAH, until the one and twentieth day of the month at evening. Seven days shall there be no CHAMETS (food made from leavened grain flours,
STRONGS #2557) found in your houses: for whosoever eats that which is with CHAMETS, even that soul shall be cut off from the assembly of YISRAEL, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing with CHAMETS; in all your habitations shall ye eat MATSTSAH.’
In STRONG’s CONCORDANCE the Hebrew word for leaven is soar (she-ore’) #7603. It means barm or yeast-cake, as in swelling by fermentation. Merriam-Webster defines Barm as the ‘yeast formed on fermenting malt liquors.’ The Collins English Dictionary defines leaven, or Barm, this way: ‘the yeast foam that appears on the surface of malt liquors as they ferment.’ So it’s not something dehydrated that’s ADDED to the brew (or bread) – it’s something that forms from the air during fermentation that is alive with microorganisms. The Collins English Dictionary describes the origin of the word LEAVEN in this way: In Old English, the word is beorma, meaning fermented yeast and BREATH. This is vital to understanding the Hebrew word that’s been translated as ‘yeast’!
According to these Scriptures, there isn’t just one instruction – there are two:
1. Get all the CHAMETZ (food made from leavened grain flours, STRONGS #2557) OR fermentation culture, OUT OF THE HOUSE, and
2. Do not EAT or partake of anything made with CHAMETZ.
So we see that during the Feast Unleavened Bread we are to only eat a quick, no rise flatbread and not keep any CHAMETZ, or living ferment in the house.
Chamets is the living ferment or sour ‘sponge’ that grows when flour, air and water mingle…this is SCRIPTURAL LEAVEN! This ‘yeast batter’ for making bread in ancient times involved a process that is called WILD FERMENTATION. The ‘wild’ yeast present in the AIR ITSELF is left to marry ancient grain/flours and water. The flour and water are mixed together and left in the open air to produce the CHAMETZ or fermentation – and it can be a painstakingly long process. The air temperature, humidity and other conditions need to be perfect. This is why some of the CHAMETZ is held back - to ensure there is LEAVEN for the next day’s baking so tomorrow’s bread will rise. It’s much easier to use the sponge and keep it alive than to begin again! This practice is still used today by artisan bakers and those implementing old world baking techniques.
For most of us, baking up a sourdough bread just means using a sourdough ‘mother’ or ‘starter’ we purchase online. The process does NOT require a week long wild ferment and days of waiting and hoping for a sponge to rise. Instead, the process begins with a store bought living microbe from a small packet sent from somewhere like Cultures for Health (or a portion of living ‘sponge’ ferment is shared by a helpful friend or neighbor). Using a packaged ferment starter still involves a living culture, even though it is not a wild ferment culture. So for example, the sourdough starter I currently have stashed away from Cultures for Health in my frig is definitely getting tossed OUT today! Because it is alive – it is true Scriptural leaven.
If you love bread, you need to try making a wild ferment loaf sometime. I have eaten bread made from a wild fermented of flour, air and water - and I can tell you its amazing and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted!
When I was ten years old my parents, who were both avid health foodies and organic gardeners, decided to try an experiment. I walked in from school one day and they were excitedly discussing how they’d read about an ancient bread making technique that used only air and whole wheat flour and water. The microbes in the air alone would raise the bread dough. I remember it took a about a week, and every day after school I’d peer down at the wild ferment sponge, wondering if it would ever rise. But eventually it did, and it also developed a lovely clean, sour smell. When that bread was baked golden brown it was pure bliss!
Commercial dry OVER THE COUNTER yeasts contain only one variety of ‘yeast seed’ and are created under sterile conditions, using chemicals and ‘stimulants’ such as molasses and modifiers like ammonium salts that force growth. This ‘yeast’ is then funneled through huge centrifugal pumps and mechanically dried to the desired consistency – WITHOUT AIR. Basically, there’s no life left in this ‘yeast’ until it is reunited with AIR, WATER, SUGAR and flour; there is NO ferment. Since it’s basically dead, sugar is required to ‘activate’ it; all naturally occurring flora has been, for all intent and purposes, killed off. Now, what does this have to do with us being obedient to Torah and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Well let me tell you, it makes understanding what to get out of the house for Passover a WHOLE lot easier!
Just as most of us need to unlearn superstitious, man-made traditions of ‘the church’ handed down through decades of bloody power plays and gross misinterpretation, we need to take up the Sword of YAHUWAH’s Word to know the truth on this topic. Many set apart Believers are discouraged and confused about the instructions concerning CHAMETZ, and have come to us asking for help in understanding Abba’s original intent in what is – and is not - leaven.
Please understand that during Moshe’s day, leaven meant fermentation. Pure and simple. This involves time, grains/flour, water and air. The point is that what we need to physically get out of our homes isn’t a dead, dehydrated, inactive yeast product produced with modern machinery. Breads made in this way can actually be put away or frozen – we just CAN’T EAT THEM. OK, some might say, ‘But what about baking soda, plain vinegar, lemon juice or those frozen doughnuts in the back of the freezer?’ Let’s look at what Scripture teaches us…
All we need ask is:
1. Is this a FERMENTED SPONGE (like sourdough ‘mother’), or a BREAD PRODUCT PRODUCED FROM A LIVE CULTURE? Hint: Store bought breads are seldom made with a live sponge - even commercial 'sour dough' bread isn't likely to have been made that way!
2. Is this a FERMENTED FOOD made over time when simple sugars produce their own LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES from the air (like sour dough bread, fermented vegetables, probiotic drinks such as kombucha, Apple Cider Vinegar, sauerkraut, yogurt or kimchee)? If the answer is yes – GET THE CHAMETZ/LEAVEN OUT!
MITZRAYIM: BONDAGE, BREAD & BREW
In ancient Egypt the art of bread making was a vital part of daily life, sustaining the entire population – pharaohs, princes and the Israelite slaves. Although the Hebrew people were not fed or clothed by the Egyptians per se, they did learn to bake their bread according to the traditions of their captors. In his article, Ancient Egyptian Bread, Miguel Esquirol Rios of The Historical Cooking Project writes the following: ‘Archeological evidence shows that beer was made by first baking "beer bread,” a type of well-leavened, lightly baked bread that did not kill the yeasts (my emphasis), which was then crumbled over a sieve, washed with water in a vat and then left to ferment. Moreover, a strain of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae present in the region of the Nile, was found to be used in bread and beer making.’
As students of Scripture, we know that what YAHUWAH intended for His people was complete liberty from the corruption and idolatry of the ancient Egyptians. He was taking them into the Promised Land led by a man who had been drawn from the water, tested and purged in the desert, and then molded into His invincible law-giver and prophet through years of devotion and obedience. There was no corruption – no leaven – in Moshe. He was the gold standard before and after Sinai - until our blessed Redeemer drew breath.
Yahuwah’s children, held captive in Egypt for generations, were not so pure. For the most part they adopted the false elohim of Egypt and its pagan culture - and soon after their arrival in the land of the pharaohs, her YEAST. It was unavoidable. The very bread keeping them alive was riddled with the biosphere of the land of bondage. A kind of unrighteous inoculation. Living and working in the region of the Nile considered the ‘breadbasket’ of Egypt, they not only acquired a considerable tolerance for the Egyptian way of life, they also began making their bread with the wild yeasts present in the air of the valley itself. But when Yahuwah was ready to take them out and help them cross over, He wanted them cleansed in body, mind and spirit! So leaving behind all of the CHAMETZ - the living, breathing bread of bondage, was yet another down-to-earth way Yahuwah prepared His children for the cleansing that would take place during the exodus:
3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of YAHUWAH man lives.
7For YAHUWAH ELOHAYKA brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; 8A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; 9A land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it; ~ Deut 8:3,7-9
The Bread of Life shown us throughout Scripture proves Yahuwah takes bread very seriously. It is more than metaphorical. It is the stuff of life. He promised His children He would feed them and fill their bellies with His bread – which did NOT include the portion of CHAMETZ used by them while they’d been in bondage to the Egyptians.
Interesting note: Some people claim that the Hebrew slaves even used the acquired Egyptian CHAMETZ to brew beer – and that may well be the case. BUT YAHUWAH cleansed them from it ENTIRELY starting at the first Pesach, continuing until after they’d fled the shores of the Red Sea.
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. ~ Exodus 15:22
The miraculous washing of the Red Sea crossing and subsequent heat of the desert would most certainly kill any remaining living yeast, or CHAMETZ, carried both knowingly and inadvertently by the escaping Hebrews. Although leaven can go dormant in colder temperatures and later thrive when warmed, the blasting, dry heat of the Arabian desert would ultimately destroy its ability to revive. All the water the people drank after their Red Sea crossing was a blessing from the Hand of the Almighty Himself - no beer allowed! Abba was cleaning up, purifying and leading His children through sanctification for His purposes and service. This method of spiritual cleansing – time in the desert and washing in water - is seen not only in the Tanakh for Yahuwah’s people and in the calling of prophets, but also at the beginning our Master Yahushua’s ministry. For a deeper look at the Scriptural commandment to ‘baptize’ or partake in Mikvah, the purification ritual, read Dr. Bill Schnoebelen’s article, MIKVAH: Light from Living Waters.
Today, prayerfully, as we partake of YAHUWAH’s Times and Seasons according to the Great Feasts of Scripture and HIS WAYs, we are not filling our hearts and minds with the leaven, timetables and celebrations of the heathen. I pray that this humble attempt to present what is found in Scripture concerning exactly what is yeast, or CHAMETZ, and how to get it out of your home for Pesach - and then, NOT partake of any food with leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is planted firmly into your heart and mind.
Bill and I love all of our set apart brethren and pray intently that all of us can one day sit at the Master’s Table in the Presence of the Bread of Life! May the blessings of YAHUWAH be upon you and your house as you seek a truly set apart life dedicated to the esteem of YAHUWAH Almighty and as you celebrate Pesach!
Eth CEPHER, 2nd edition 2016
Key Word Study Bible, Hebrew-Greek KJV Version, 2008 edition
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 2003 edition
Biblical Archaeology Online, http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/biblical-bread-baking-like-the-ancient-israelites/
Bible Encyclopedia, http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/
Cultures for Health, http://www.culturesforhealth.com
Historical Cooking Project, http://www.historicalcookingproject.com/2014/12/guest-post-ancient-egyptian-bread-by.html
King James Bible Online, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org
Red Star Yeast, The Science of Yeast, http://redstaryeast.com/science-yeast/manufacturing-yeast/
Strong’s Concordance, http://biblehub.com/hebrew/
With One Accord Ministries, MIKVAH: Light from Living Waters, Dr. Wm. Schnoebelen, www.withoneaccord.org