Passover is just a few days away which means that it’s time to do our last minute spring cleaning to get all the leaven out of our houses and hearts. And if you’re anything like me, I get so confused about what’s considered a leavening and what’s not that I usually rely on my sister to tell me what’s allowed for Passover and what I need to get rid of; but instead of bugging her with the same questions again this year, I decided to create a list of leaving agents of my own!
I know it’s easy to look at the process of removing the leaven in our homes as somewhat ritualistic and just an all-around hassle even though we know its a necessary process that ultimately benefits us. Traditional Judaism has very confusing lists for leaven and complicated instructions how to clean at Passover. I’ll admit that I tend to get a little discouraged and extremely overwhelmed with all the different opinions of what’s considered leaven and what’s not during Passover. Some say no beans but rice is ok, while others say no rice but beans are ok. Some say anything that even appears to “puff up” when water is added (such as oatmeal, beans, rice, etc) is strictly prohibited; hence, the prohibition against almost all grains during Passover. But I’m not sure that this is completely accurate.
Personally, I feel that the process of getting rid of leaven has become way too complicated in religious circles. And when this happens, it takes away from the true purpose and focus of Passover: Yeshua and His sacrifice of love for our sins.
I believe that YHVH intended His rules to be fairly straightforward; we are the ones who complicate them. Sometimes we over-complicate things when we try to do the right thing and make everything perfect. But when we over-complicate things, not only do we take the joy out of keeping Torah in our own lives, but we take away the joy from others as well. We are meant to be a light to the world, but if we are grumbling about the hassle of cleaning and complaining about what we can’t eat (for one, whole week of our lives!), we send the wrong message to those who are watching us. Not a very good light if you ask me.
Yes, we are to remove the physical leaven from our homes and we should take the process seriously, but we shouldn’t be so focused on the outward physical leaven that we forget about the inward spiritual leaven. This is also a time to search the deepest corners of our hearts and ask YHVH to reveal the leaven that is hidden deep within us. Leaven represents the sin we hold onto in our lives but it also represents pride. This is the season of removing the things that “puff us up” and keep us far from Him.
In Exodus 12, YHVH instructs His people about His Passover.
13 And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and let the plague not come on you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall become to you a remembrance. And you shall observe it as a festival to YHVH throughout your generations – observe it as a festival, an everlasting law.
15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. Indeed on the first day you cause leaven to cease from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that being shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And on the first day is a set-apart gathering, and on the seventh day you have a set-apart gathering. No work at all is done on them, only that which is eaten by every being, that alone is prepared by you.
17 And you shall guard the Festival of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. And you shall guard this day throughout your generations, an everlasting law.
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening.
19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, that same being shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether sojourner or native of the land.
20 Do not eat that which is leavened – in all your dwellings you are to eat unleavened bread. (emphasis mine)
In verse 14, YHVH specifically says that this day is to be a “festival to YHVH forever.” Passover, like the entire Torah, is not about us; it’s about Him. Our Father and King has requested that we observe this day with Him. And it was during this festival, centuries later, that He gave the greatest Passover gift to His people: the redemptive blood of Yeshua, His Son, as the Passover Lamb. What more reason to celebrate and be joyful could we need?
So here it is; the list I will be using to (hopefully) simplify things a little this Passover. I make no claim that this is the “ultimate Passover list” or that I am the authority on Passover leaven. But this list helped me at a time when I was struggling with how to observe Passover and rid my home of leaven.
I had become so focused on leaving agents instead of YHVH and the joy of Yeshua that I was in danger of missing the whole point of Passover. I tend to over-think things so YHVH had to remind me to refocus my priorities, fix my gaze on Him, and let Him lead me in how to follow His commands. Even though I’m sharing this list with you all, I encourage everyone to seek the Lord and let Him lead and instruct you. You may disagree with my list or have other items that you remove from your homes, but my hope is that everyone will do their own research about leaven and make a decision about how to celebrate Passover in your own homes.
And this Passover, let’s commit to simplifying things and bring back the joy of our Salvation Yeshua!
Chag Sameach Pesach!
Commonly used leavening agents in food:
- Yeasts, including: baker’s yeast and active dried yeast
- Ammonium carbonate
- Ammonium bicarbonate
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate)
- Dipotassium carbonate
- Monocalcium phosphate
- Potassium carbonate
- Potassium bicarbonate
- Sodium aluminum phosphate
- Sodium aluminum sulfate
Leavening agents found in non-food items:
- Preparation H (has yeast)
- Cat and dog foods with yeast
- Toothpastes with baking soda
Below are foods or ingredients not leavened, although some people mistake them for leavening or leavened foods. Biblically speaking, they pose no problem:
Puffed cereals: Some food products are “puffed up” by mechanical means but cannot be used as a contact spreading agent. They are just puffed up by air and are not chemically leavened. They include: popcorn, beaten eggs, and air puffed cereal like puffed rice or wheat. Double check your cereal, however, to ensure there is no actual leavening.
Brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae:) is an inactive yeast, meaning the yeasts have been killed and have no leavening power. It is the yeast remaining after beer making. It is used as a nutrient supplement to increase the intake of B vitamins. Brewer’s yeast comes powdered (the most potent form), in flakes (best for health shakes), and in tablets.
Yeast extract (autolyzed yeast extract): When yeast cells die, they automatically break up, a process called autolysis, in which the yeasts’ digestive enzymes break their proteins down into simpler compounds. What remains is a collection of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer.
Soda pop: Although its name says “soda,” soda pop is not leavened as if with bicarbonate of “soda.” It is made with water that has been infused with carbon dioxide in a non-leavening process.