Living Unleavened Lives: Eating Matzah as a Spiritual Discipline

Matzah

Matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten during Passover

We are midway into the Passover week (actually eight days) and I find myself thinking about the many ways I am going to make matzah palatable today. Maybe I’ll make my father’s recipe for matzah brei. Here is my recipe, in case you want to try it!

Step 1: Carefully break a piece of matzah into small pieces and put into a bowl of hot water.

Step 2: Crack 3 medium eggs, stir, and begin making an omelet (use only egg whites to make it healthier!)

Step 3: Dry the soaking matzah in a paper towel, before it gets too mushy and still has a little bit of crunch to it, and add to the omelet.

Step 4: Matzah brei can be made either salty (adding salt, pepper, garlic and fried onions to the mix) or sweet (keeping the matzah omelet plain and simple and then applying large amounts of marmalade, strawberry jelly or leftover charoset from the previous night’s Seder).

Please try one of these versions of this traditional Jewish breakfast dish and let me know what you think!

Even before breakfast, I’ll need to think about lunch – perhaps a matzah sandwich with tuna fish or turkey, or maybe even some leftover brisket. I also have to decide what kind of matzah I’m going to eat with my sandwich; regular matzah, egg matzah, egg and onion matzah.

Passover menu planning does not stop there – there are also unleavened snacks! I’m glad I live in Brooklyn, where I can easily get most of my usual cakes, ice cream sandwiches and other types of desserts made without leaven.
I like bread, and during a normal week, I usually eat some bagels, rolls and a few slices of bread–but during Passover, I spend 8 days trying to figure out new ways to enjoy matzah!

Why do I do this? This is a question I ask myself with every crunchy bite of the striped, pierced and quite frankly tasteless (unless you’re eating chocolate matzah) “bread substitute.” Sometimes I think that the manna in the wilderness that came down from heaven to feed the children of Israel was made of matzah, which is why my ancestors cried out for a change of menu.

I do not eat matzah because I believe God will judge me for not doing so during Passover. I believe that keeping the Jewish holidays to be voluntary for followers of Jesus. Yet I do keep most of the festivals and try to be especially strict in avoiding leaven during Passover.

I observe the Jewish holidays because keeping them helps me identify with my Jewish people. I view myself as part of the Jewish community, though my faith is not often understood by the majority. I also believe that the holidays point to Jesus, and by understanding and observing them my relationship with Messiah is deepened. After all, He kept the festivals too!

But mostly, I munch on matzah for 8 days because of the spiritual value in doing so. I was reading a blog the other day by a pastor who was suggesting a variety of spiritual disciplines designed especially for holy week. He included fasting as one of these disciplines, as well as reading the passion narrative and a few other excellent ideas. However, I thought to myself, he is missing a wonderful spiritual discipline that predates so many of these other suggestions – one that is so very biblical (Exodus 12:15, 19,13:7, Leviticus 23:6) and would certainly make holy week more meaningful – eating matzah!

I believe that refraining from eating leavened bread products is a rigorous spiritual exercise that helps followers of Yeshua focus on purity and personal holiness, as well as the original intent and deeper values undergirding the holiday. And if you view the Feasts of Israel as prophetic (which I do) then the perfect fulfillment of the feast of unleavened bread is Jesus the Messiah.

In Jewish tradition, leaven symbolizes moral degeneration, and the more you avoid leaven, the more you are reminded of the purity of life that pleases God. Jesus mentions leaven in this way when He takes issue with the teaching of Jewish leaders that cause the purity of Torah to be compromised by additional teachings that could lead a person to misinterpret God’s original intent. (Matthew 16:6,11-12)

I am sure this is what Rabbi Saul – the Apostle Paul – meant when he wrote,

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 Cor. 5:6-8)

So why don’t you try it? There are still a few days left in Passover. If you get your whole family involved in eating matzah for the remainder of the week, it would provide a memorable family experience, and you could talk to your children about the importance of living an “unleavened” lifestyle – not just during Passover, but throughout the year. I think you would find this to be a valuable spiritual discipline both personally and as a family. We have!

Here are some further reading from some of our very religious Jewish friends with some interesting information about matzah to help make your “leaven avoidance” more meaningful.

Matzah is a symbol, but Jesus is our example – and by His Spirit He provides the power we need to live godly lives.  He is the epitome of sinless perfection!

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