We are commanded in the Bible to remove all leaven from our houses during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Is it true that your understanding and the understanding of the Jews are different, as to what constitutes leaven that needs to be removed? If so, could you explain your position and the reasons for it?


We are glad to.

First of all, we need to understand that the Jews were recipients of the “law” (Romans 9:4) and the “oracles” (Romans 3:2). They were entrusted by God to preserve the written Old Testament Scriptures as well as, for example, the knowledge of the week and the Hebrew Calendar (compare our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” pp. 2-3). Christ also told the Jews of His time to do what the scribes and the Pharisees told them to do, as they were sitting “in Moses’ seat,” warning them at the same time not to “do according to their works” (Matthew 23:1-3). In other words, the people were not to follow the leadership if they were to teach and act contrary to God’s law, either by adding or by deleting something (compare Deuteronomy 4:2). Christ chided the Pharisees and the scribes repeatedly for “laying aside the commandment of God,” while holding “the tradition of men” (Mark 7:1, 8-13). He made clear that His disciples were not obligated to follow those human traditions. Later, the apostles refused to obey the high priest and the Sadducees, when their command was contrary to God’s will (Acts 5:17, 27-29, 40-42).

Based on this background, we need to carefully evaluate the Jewish definition of what constitutes “leaven” that needs to be removed from our houses during the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (compare Exodus 13:6-7). The Jewish definition does not have to be accepted by God’s Church, if it is, in effect, adding to, or deleting from the revealed purpose and spirit of God’s commandment. We must also realize that Christ came to make the law more honorable (Isaiah 42:21), and to teach His followers the spiritual applications of the law (compare Matthew 5:21-48) — going beyond the application of the letter (Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6).

It has been the long-standing teaching of the Church of God that in certain respects, the spiritual concept of leaven is both broader and narrower than the Jewish understanding.

To quote from the Broadman Bible Commentary, on Exodus 13, p. 360, let us notice the somewhat stringent and extreme interpretation of “leaven” in “later Judaism”:

“These must be removed at Passover: Babylonian porridge, Median beer, Edomite vinegar, and Egyptian Barley-beer, also dyers’ pulp, cooks’ starch-flour, and writers’ paste. R. Eliezer says: Also women’s cosmetics. This is the general rule: whatsoever is made from any kind of grain must be removed at passover’ (Perashim 3:1)…”

The Church of God never taught that beverages or items not meant or fit for human consumption are to be removed. The Good News wrote on March, 1981: “There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture [as distinguished from human traditions!] to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread — no mention of these being the ‘Days of Unleavened Beverages.’ The fact is that in all cases where the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned, the reference is always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages… If God had intended a ban on fermented beverages during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned. In fact, such mention would have been necessary.”

An old letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God adds the following:

“Items such as bread, cake, crackers, cookies, and prepared cereals and pies which contain leavening, of course, must be put out. Doing so is symbolic of putting both the visible and the hidden sins out of our lives. It is true, however, that leavening agents are also found in a number of products other than baked goods. Among these are beer, wine, and antacids, and some medications, bath powders, toothpastes, and dog foods. Even fire extinguishers contain forms of leavening agents. But, all these need not be discarded.”

In addition, though, the Church of God has consistently preached and taught that certain “leavening agents,” which the Jews don’t remove, SHOULD BE removed. These leavening agents include baking soda and baking powder, but not “brewer’s yeast,” “yeast extracts,” or “cream of tartar.”

In regard to baking soda and baking powder, it has been said that these agents are dead, unable to puff up the dough. Whether or not this is true from a biological-chemical standpoint, note, how these agents are defined in encyclopedias. For instance, the Grosse Brockhaus defines “baking powder” as “baking leavening, to loose the dough, used in replacement of yeast.” The WebBible Encyclopedia defines “leaven” as an “agent used to raise bread or other flour foods. Physical leavens include water vapor, which is released as steam at high temperatures (as in popovers), and air, which is incorporated by beating. CHEMICAL LEAVEN (BAKING POWDER AND BAKING SODA) and biological leavens (yeasts and certain bacteria) raise the mixture by the formation of carbon dioxide gas, which is expanded by heat.” The Encyclopedia Britannica adds that baking powder is “a prepared mixture to replace yeast in baking.”

Based on the foregoing, the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have determined to uphold the long-standing Church teaching to include baking powder and baking soda as leavening agents that are to be removed during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Whether active agents or not, they would clearly be used, in any event, as a substitute for leavening to puff up any flour or meal product, thereby violating the spirit of God’s commands.

For any additional use of leavening agents, or agents used as a substitute for leavening, let us quote again with approval from the above-cited letter of the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God:

“… it is a matter of personal conscience between the individual Christian and God as to whether the product should be thrown out. If having any of these or similar products in your home during the Days of Unleavened Bread defiles your conscience, it would be best to get rid of them during the festival (Romans 14:23).” In addition, we must also be careful not to offend others and their conscience. If we know that a member would be offended if we were to bring products into his house, or to Church services, which the member considers “leavened,” we should refrain from doing so (compare the principle in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

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