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D7. Abstaining from Chametz, from Passover through the Feast of Unleavened Bread.    [Make a Comment]

We are to abstain from eating chametz, from Passover through the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

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

Exodus 12:119-20 (Maimonides RN198; Meir MN5; Chinuch C12)
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. Eat nothing with hametz in it. Wherever you live, eat matzah.

Exodus 13:3 (Maimonides RN197; Meir MN4; Chinuch C19)
Moshe said to the people, "Remember this day, on which you left Egypt, the abode of slavery; because ADONAI, by the strength of his hand, has brought you out of this place. Do not eat hametz.

Deuteronomy 16:2-3 (Maimonides RN199; Meir MN104; Chinuch C485)
You are to sacrifice the Pesach offering from flock and herd to ADONAI your God in the place where ADONAI will choose to have his name live. You are not to eat any hametz with it; for seven days you are to eat with it matzah, the bread of affliction; for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste. Thus you will remember the day you left the land of Egypt as long as you live.

Chametz is any food that contains leaven, the quintessential one being bread leavened with yeast. This Mitzvah #D7 states that we must not eat chametz, from Passover through the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Each of the supporting Scriptures above states it a little differently. Exodus 13:3 instructs abstention from chametz, Exodus 12:19-20 prohibits eating food that contains chametz, and Deuteronomy 16:2-3 prohibits eating chametz along with the sacrificed Passover lamb, all of which amount to the same thing which is to not eat chametz during the seven days of Unleavened Bread.

The particulars of what should be considered leaven and chametz are controversial among Jewry. Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities 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, a commonly held view that our not keeping casually-stored grains that would have had time to ferment and rise is what Scripture intends. An alternative view discounts the effect of airborne yeast and calls for discarding only those items that contain added leaven.

This Mitzvah is mandated for Jews and K'rov Yisrael Gentiles, but not for Gentiles generally. Exodus 12:19-20 makes this clear in that most Gentiles were not part of the community of Israel in the first place, so their being cut off from it for eating chametz is meaningless.

For more on chametz, leaven and unleavened bread, see Mitzvot # D6 and # D8.

The commentators' mitzvot and this Mitzvah #D7 are in agreement except for terminology. They use the word "Pesach" as inclusive of both Passover and the 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch agree that chametz is not to be eaten after the middle of the 14th day of Nisan because the Passover lamb was slaughtered at dusk.


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