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Living in the Leavened Kingdom Print E-mail
Written by Victoria Radin   

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) was explained in the book of Exodus. The Lord instructed the Israelites to remove leaven (sa’ ar) from their houses from the first day until the seventh day or be cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:15, 19). The sages explain that this leaven is that which causes corruption, i.e. “the evil inclination”, “another authority”, “a foreign god” as distinguished from khametz, which describes items that have been leavened and are already spoiled or corrupted. The Israelites had, during their years of slavery in Egypt, been continually exposed to this leaven. They were slaves to Pharaoh and the Egyptians who practiced pagan ways. The rabbis teach that the Creator said, “All those years you stood in another authority and served a different people. From here on, you are free.”

The departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is symbolic of an individual leaving the slavery of a sinful life, Egypt being a type of the sinful world. 

“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)

God knew that the Israelites (and we also) had to leave “Egypt” in order to be free to live a virtuous life. Yet He knew they needed instruction in order to learn how to live righteously. He taught them and still teaches us through the use of allegories and physical analogies to drive home His point.

For instance, the greatest example of a physical analogy is the sacrificial system. As a temporary measure, when the Israelites left Egypt, God provided the sacrificial system [specific animal sacrifices] to atone for the sins that they committed unintentionally or in ignorance to keep the Israelites ‘spiritually clean’ before Him. The sacrificial animal had to have a perfect outward appearance, which reflected its inward purity and they were forbidden to offer sacrifices with any leaven (Exodus 23:18, 34:25, Leviticus 2:11) since leaven represents sin or evil. 

When the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:4), God sent John [the Baptist] to prepare the way for Yeshua, the ultimate sacrifice to which the sacrificial system pointed. It was John who introduced Yeshua as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Yeshua was the ultimate sacrifice that was inwardly pure, offered up without ‘leaven’ (without sin) (Hebrews 4:15, 7:27) as was required by the law of God. 

Once, when the multitudes had gathered to Yeshua by the sea (Matthew 13:1-2), He spoke parables to them to teach what the kingdom of heaven was like. In each parable, His analogy implied that the kingdom would be a mixture of good and evil and that believers would serve alongside those who served the enemy until judgment day when the good would be separated from the evil (Matthew 13:24-30). In one parable, He said the kingdom would be permeated with leaven. Leaven, in metaphor, is an element, influence, or agent that works subtly to modify or corrupt the whole suggesting that these influences would corrupt the masses.

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”(Matthew 13:33)

Women often represented evil in moral and religious spheres (Zechariah 5:7-8, Revelation 2:20, 17:1-6). The woman in this parable hides leaven in three measures of meal. This alluded to the fact that there were three types of leaven exhibited in those of whom Yeshua was critical. 

1. The Leaven of the Pharisees (hypocrisy)

“…He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’” Luke (12:1)

2. The Leaven of both the Pharisees and Sadducees (false doctrines and false teachings)

“‘How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?–but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:11-12)

3. The Leaven of Herod (He observed Roman law, but did not observe God’s law. He was personally immoral with respect to marriage and murder. 

“For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” (Mark 6:17-18)

“Then He charged them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of … the leaven of Herod.’” (Mark 8:15)

More than twenty years after the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the apostle Paul instructed the Gentile converts in Galatia about obedience to God’s laws using Yeshua’s ‘leaven metaphor’. Some individuals there were using God’s grace as a license to sin. Paul made the point that a small amount of distortion of the truth can lead to much confusion and deceit. 

“You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” (Galatians 5:7-10)

And, again, at Corinth, Paul admonished them to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread while explaining its spiritual application to gentile believers.

“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Unleavened bread is called “matzah”. The Zohar calls matzah “the bread of faith.” But often our behavior is not consistent with our faith. The Talmud addresses the “Thief in the Burrow Syndrome” wherein a thief is tunneling under a home he intends to rob when he hears the sound of footsteps. He silently prays “Please, G-d, save me!” Here is a man who seems to believe in G-d, and therefore must know that G-d commanded, “Do not steal.” Yet, he is planning to steal while at the same time imploring the L-rd for help. The thief had not internalized his faith in G-d. When Paul addressed the Corinthians as “unleavened”, it implies that they were conscious of the need to internalize their faith and incorporate it into their daily lives so as not to be like the “Thief in the Burrow”.

Throughout the Bible, sin is shown to be like leaven, expanding into the surrounding “bread”, i.e. into other people. God will not leave unpunished those who are ‘leavening agents’ in their ability to prevent others from entering the kingdom by causing them to misunderstand and disobey His Word.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Matthew 23:13-14) 

The apostle Paul admonishes us to examine ourselves.

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Are you like the multitudes that followed Jesus around but live a life filled with ‘leaven’, being slowly corrupted by the world? Are you a “thief in a burrow” that does not incorporate your faith into daily living? Are you ‘leaven’ that discourages individuals from following the Lord by the example you set or words you say? Do you distort the Word of God and teach it to others? Or, are you truly unleavened, having purged the leaven of malice and wickedness from your life, internalizing your faith, incorporating it into your daily life by offering yourself daily as a living sacrifice unto the Lord, without leaven. 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

Barukh HaShem (Blessed is the Name of the Lord)


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