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D6. Keeping Our Home & Domain Free of Leaven & Chametz from Passover through the Feast of Unleavened Bread.    [Make a Comment]

We are to maintain our home and all territory that is under our control completely free of leaven and chametz from Passover through all seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Exodus 12:15 (Maimonides RP156; Meir MP22; Chinuch C9)
For seven days you are to eat matzah - on the first day remove the leaven from your houses. For whoever eats hametz [leavened bread] from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Isra'el.

Exodus 12:19 (Maimonides RN201; Meir MN3; Chinuch C11)
During those seven days, no leaven is to be found in your houses. Whoever eats food with hametz in it is to be cut off from the community of Isra'el - it doesn't matter whether he is a foreigner or a citizen of the land.

Exodus 13:7 (Maimonides RN200; Meir MN2; Chinuch C20)
Matzah is to be eaten throughout the seven days; neither hametz nor leavening agents are to be seen with you throughout your territory.

1 Corinthians 5:5-8
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know the saying, "It takes only a little hametz to leaven a whole batch of dough?" Get rid of the old hametz, so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the Seder not with leftover hametz, the hametz of wickedness and evil, but with the matzah of purity and truth.

Galatians 5:7-9
You were running the race well; who has stopped you from following the truth? Whatever means of persuasion he used was not from the One who calls you. "It takes only a little hametz to leaven the whole batch of dough."

This Mitzvah, #D6, requires that no leaven, whether alone or part of chametz (food containing leaven), be in a Jew's possession or within his control during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This implies that he (or she) must, before sundown on the 14th day of Nisan, remove it from his house, garage, shed, trash bin, business property, territory domain, or anywhere else where he has proprietary rights of control, and must not let it back in for seven full days. This abstinence commemorates the Jews' hasty departure from Egypt, when they had no time to allow their bread to rise and therefore had to eat unleavened bread on the first leg of their journey. According to Exodus 12:19, obedience to this commandment is not an option for either a Jew, or for a Gentile who is part of "the land" (I interpret this to mean the Jewish community if in the Diaspora). We call such a Gentile a K'rov Yisrael.

Leaven is analogized to sin in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and in Galatians 5:7-9, and its removal from our lives is directly linked to the Passover, and to the Passover lamb - our Messiah. But leaven is not always symbolic of sin, as we can see from Leviticus 23:17, which requires that the firstfruits bread offering of Shavuot be made with leaven.

The particulars of what should be considered leaven and chametz are controversial among Jewry. Sephardim and Ashkenazim follow different rules on the subject, and Messianic Jewish communities are equally diverse. Is leaven anything that can cause food to rise, or must there be fermentation in order for it to qualify? What grains must be removed from the house because they are subject to spontaneous fermentation during storage? Rice? Barley? Beans? Discussions of such particulars are found in the Talmudic literature, but not in any of the classical mitzvah codifications. I do not think it would be judicious for me to express my opinion of these particulars here. The general idea in the Scriptures is that the Israelites' bread that would otherwise have fermented with yeast did not have time to rise. Therefore, our not keeping casually-stored grains that would have had time to ferment and rise would seem to be the general intent of the biblical text.

The legal fiction, in which people sometimes engage, of keeping control of their chametz (whether stored in their house or not) by selling it to a Gentile for a minimum amount of money with the understanding that the Gentile will sell it back to them after the days of Unleavened Bread is not in accord with the spirit of the Scriptures. People should gauge their purchases and production of leavened products so as to minimize their material loss, but they should not engage in subterfuge.

This Mitzvah is mandated for Jews and K'rov Yisrael Gentiles, but not for Gentiles generally; the text of 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 cited above is therefore metaphorical in its application as to them.

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch distinguish between not possessing leaven and not finding it in one's house. Meir and HaChinuch require that a Jew search his house for leaven, whereas Maimonides does not mention such a requirement. None of the commentators attempt to define "leaven," but HaChinuch says that yeast is an example of it. Meir states that if a non-Jew places chametz in a Jew's house and the Jew has not taken responsibility for it, the chametz need not be destroyed; otherwise it must be.


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