The Appointed Times of YHVH–the Festival of the Unleavened Bread Part II
Should we sacrifice lamb today and eat it for the Festival of the Unleavened Bread (Chag Matzot)? Actually, these are two separate questions which we will answer in this article. But let us recall from Part I of this series that Pesach (Passover) is not a name of feast, nor is it a name of day. Pesach is not a feast at all, but the Passover lamb for the feast of the Unleavened Bread observed for seven days: from the fifteenth until the twenty-first day of the first month of the year.
In order to properly understand the Festival of the Unleavened Bread (Chag Matzot) in context, we need to examine why this festival was instituted in the first place and what was the necessity for it.
The bread of affliction and the blood of the Passover lamb
Let us go back to the Exodus story and read,
And I shall pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and shall strike all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And on all the mighty ones of Egypt I shall execute judgment. I am Yehovah. And the blood (of the lamb) shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and let the plague not come on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exo 12:12-13)
The blood of the Passover lamb upon the doorposts of their houses would be a sign and pledge that YHVH would spare the children of Israel, and the plague on the firstborn should not fall upon them to destroy. While the Israelites were eating the Pesach, the blood of the Passover lamb was protecting them from the tenth plague that was falling upon their oppressors. This was effected at midnight of the fifteenth until the early morning.
Early morning while still dark, the exodus commenced. The urgency compelled the Israelites to take the dough as it was not yet risen, having the kneading bowls bound up in their garments on their shoulders (Exo 12:34).
As they took the unleavened batch of though (matzah), they started their exodus out of Egypt. Later in Deu_16:3, Mosheh would call the unleavened bread (matzah) “the bread of affliction,” because they were in great distress during the seven days of their journey to the Red Sea (Yam Suph).
The seven-day eating of unleavened bread (matzah), on account of the affliction, formed what would be known later the seven days of Festival of the Unleavened Bread. Therefore, because YHVH had led the children of Israel out of Egypt on the fifteenth of the month and seven days later He brought them out of the land of affliction, Israel was to observe the law of the Pesach (the sacrificial lamb) and the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days, in order to remember what the blood of the Passover lamb did for them in Egypt.
The permission to eat the lamb within our gates
Forty years later, Mosheh commanded Israel,
Guard yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see, except in the place which Yehovah chooses, in one of your tribes, there you are to offer your burnt offerings, and there you are to do all that I command you. (Deu 12:13-14)
Israel was to be very careful how to do YHVH’s commands concerning the burnt offerings. The burnt offerings were not to be offered in every place that they would see fit, except in the place which He had chosen, that is, Jerusalem and the Temple. There and only there they were to offer them.
In the next verses, however, Mosheh did not extend the prohibition with another negative command, but permitted the people to eat within all their gates whatever they desired, even the ceremonially unclean among them may eat it. We read,
Only, whatever your soul desires you shall slaughter and eat, according to the blessing of Yehovah your Elohim which He has given you, within all your gates. The unclean and the clean do eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. (Deu 12:15)
What does this permission mean?
First, we need to notice that the unclean and the clean refers to the people, not to the food. Second, the unclean and the clean (in the context of the whole Torah) means ceremonially “clean” and “unclean,” that is, “acceptable” and “unacceptable” to bring sacrifices to the Sanctuary in Jerusalem.
However, the unclean and the clean may eat the desired meat, whether lamb or goat, gazelle or deer, within their gates not as a sacrifice, but only as a meal, as long as they do not eat it with the blood. This meal is not the Pesach (the Passover lamb).
We should note that this permission to eat lamb within our gates is in contrast with the sacrificed food (i.e. the Pesach for the Unleavened Bread) that can be eaten only in Jerusalem.
Only, the blood you do not eat, pour it on the earth like water. You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, … But eat them before Yehovah your Elohim, in the place which Yehovah your Elohim chooses … (Deu 12:16-18)
This means that they could eat lamb for the Festival of the Unleavened Bread at home (if for some reason they could not travel to Jerusalem) only as a meal, not as the Pesach (the Passover lamb) that is a sacrifice. And they did not have to be ceremonially acceptable (clean) to eat the lamb within their gates, as apposed to eating the Passover lamb.
In order to make himself clear on this issue, Mosheh reiterated it,
When the place where Yehovah your Elohim chooses to put His Name is too far from you, then you shall slaughter from your herd and from your flock which Yehovah has given you, as I have commanded you, and you shall eat within your gates as much as your being desires. (Deu 12:21)
When Jerusalem is too far from them, or for some reason they could not travel, whether for health reasons or advanced age, the Israelites may slaughter from their herd and flock, and they can eat the meat in the convenience of their homes as much as they desire.
We should notice that Mosheh did not call the animal they could eat at home the Pesach (the Passover lamb). This animal prepared as a meal can be a lamb or a goat, but also any other animal from their herd or flock, as long as it is not sacrifice in the manner of ceremonial sacrifice of the Pesach.
The phrase as I have commanded you could only refer to the previous command in verse 15 as long as they do not eat the Passover lamb with the blood (v.16).
With these commands Mosheh introduces meat eaten as part of an ordinary meal rather than as a sacrifice for the Temple service. In other words, this meat did not have to be eaten under conditions of ritual purity, as is the case with the meat of the Passover offerings. Rather, every one may eat lamb, “the unclean and the clean,” as long as they would eat it as a regular meal, not as a sacrifice.
Eat unleavened bread with the Passover lamb for seven days
Now, there is something that is little known today and much less practiced, nevertheless, important in our observance of the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. We read,
And you shall slaughter the Pesach (the Passover lamb) to Yehovah your Elohim, from the flock and the herd, in the place where Yehovah chooses to put His Name. Eat no leavened bread with it. For seven days you eat unleavened bread with it, bread of affliction, because you came out of the land of Egypt in haste – so that you remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt, all the days of your life. (Deu 16:2-3)
What is new here for some of us?
Let us pay close attention to the key phrase Eat no leavened bread with it. For seven days you eat unleavened bread with it. What is “with it?”
When an Israelite slaughter the Pesach (the Passover lamb) to Yehovah in Jerusalem, he is to eat it with unleavened bread. For seven days he eats unleavened bread. This unleavened bread is called, the bread of affliction, because Israel came out of Egypt in haste and ate the unleavened bread for seven days in a state of great suffering and distress pursued by the Egyptians – so that they remember the day in which they came out of Egypt, all the days of their lives.
Here in this passage, the phrase “with it” cannot possibly refer to anything else other than the Pesach (the Passover lamb), which is distinctly stated in the preceding sentence to be slaughtered in Jerusalem.
In other words, the unleavened bread (matzah) is to be eaten with the sacrificial lamb (the Pesach) seven days: the seven days of the Festival of the Unleavened Breads from the fifteenth until the twenty-first day, not only on the first day of the festival as it is commonly understood.
For seven days, we are commanded, to eat unleavened bread with the Passover lamb.
During these seven days, no leaven should be seen within their gates, nor can the lamb be slaughtered on the fourteenth while the leaven is still present. Only when the entire house is leaven free, then and only then the Passover lamb can be slaughtered.
Neither should the Passover lamb be slaughtered in the eve of the first day of the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, nor should it stay all night until morning (Deu 16:4).
The Pesach lamb is not allowed to be slaughtered within any of the dwellings (Deu 16:5), but only at the place where YHVH has chosen (the Sanctuary in Jerusalem) (Deu 16:6).
Again, the same laws are to be applied for those who cannot make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; they may eat the matzah with lamb meat (for food consumption) within their gates seven days.
Remember the Passover lamb in Egypt
In conclusion, we derive from these verses in Deuteronomy 12 and 16 that we may eat the unleavened bread (matzah) with lamb or goat meat within our gates not only for the Unleavened Bread dinner (aka Passover dinner), but for all seven days of the festival, as much as we desire.
Today we do not have the Temple in Jerusalem, therefore, we cannot sacrifice the Pesach (the Passover lamb) in the manner commanded in the Torah. But we can still celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread and eat matzah with lamb or goat meat as long as it is not to enact it as a Pesach sacrifice.
Why is that? Because, what are we told in Deu 16:3, to remember the Temple service of slaughtering the Pesach lamb, or to remember the Exodus out of Egypt?
… so that you remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt, all the days of your life.
We are told to remember the day in which we came out of Egypt, the land of slavery. And this is what we do during the Festival of the Unleavened Bread: we remember and retell what the blood of the Passover lamb did for us in Egypt and how YHVH saved us.
Moreover, in the Hebraic mind, remembering something is not simply recalling the past; it is living the past event in the present. By remembering the Exodus and eating the unleavened bread with the Passover lamb, we are not only to recall the events of the past, but also to relive again and again those events in the present.
The law of the Passover lamb was instituted while Israel was still in Egypt (Exodus 12); the laws of the sacrifices in Leviticus were instituted at Mount Sinai for the sacrificial services first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple.
In Exodus and in Deuteronomy Mosheh told us to remember the exodus and what YHVH did for us with a mighty hand. Mosheh did not tell us to commemorate the Temple services, but the seven days in which we all ate the bread of affliction with Passover lamb.
We ate the first matzah with fear of the pursuing Egyptians and that is why YHVH calls it the bread of affliction.
And this day shall become to you a remembrance. And you shall celebrate it as a festival to Yehovah throughout your generations – celebrate it as a festival, an everlasting law. (Exo 12:14)
As we retell the Exodus story from Egypt, we relive what our fathers lived out, and this is the whole point of celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread to YHVH: to keep in our hearts and minds the exodus of the children of Israel.
Today we do not have the Temple in our midst and there is not Levitical priesthood to serve in the Temple. But we still have the commands which Mosheh has given us to eat the bread of affliction with the Passover lamb and to relive the Exodus, because another Exodus greater than the first exodus is coming.
And most importantly, to remember the sacrificial Passover lamb that protected us from the punishment that was otherwise on us.
That is why our teacher Mosheh called the unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because we ate it with the lamb and bitter herbs in haste while Elohim was punishing those who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb and we ate it for seven days while leaving Egypt.
For more insight on the true Exodus story, refer to the article Will All Israel Return?
With all that being said, we understand that the Pesach (the Passover lamb) is not the Festival of the Unleavened Bread itself, but the sacrifice, the center point of it.
This topic will be the center point of the next article about the Festival of the Bread of Affliction and the Messiah.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.