What Do You Mean, “Put Out Leaven”?


What Is Real “Leavening”?


During the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, we are

Commanded to put “all leaven” away from our premises, and

not eat anything with leaven.  What is “leaven,” anyway?  What

does it represent?  What about beer, alcoholic drinks, vinegar? 

What about baking powder and baking soda?   What are the

SPIRITUAL principles we are to learn from this commandment?

Many have been misled into a fog of deception and assumption!

Here is the plain truth, plainly and simply proven!


William F. Dankenbring


            In the book of Exodus, Almighty God commands His people, speaking of the Passover, when He delivered Israel from slavery to the Egyptians, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.  For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast.   On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel” (Exo.12:14-15, NIV).


            Notice that God not only commands His people to AVOID all leavening and yeast during this time of celebration, but they are ALSO commanded to EAT unleavened bread throughout this period of seven days!


            Incredibly, during this end-time generation, all the so-called churches of God, and off-shoots of the rapidly flailing and disintegrating Worldwide Church of God, have missed the boat spiritually, regarding BOTH of these commandments!


            First, they have not correctly defined or understood just what the Scriptures mean by the word for “yeast” or “leaven,” and have incorrectly applied it to things which are NOT leaven at all!


            And secondly, they have foolishly taught the people that there is NO command to EAT “unleavened bread” throughout the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”!


            Did you get that?


            God calls it “The Feast of Unleavened Bread,” and it is to last SEVEN days.  Since the feast is defined at the feast of “unleavened bread,” then it naturally should follow that we should FEAST on “unleavened bread” for all seven days! 

            Is that so difficult to understand?


            In Exodus 12, God continues:  “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt.  Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.  For seven days no yeast is to be found in [all] your houses.  And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born.  Eat nothing made with yeast.  Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread” (verses 17-20).


            This is not just a command to avoid eating leaven for seven days.  It is also a command direct from God to EAT UNLEAVENED BREAD for seven days!


            But just what IS leaven?  What is “yeast”?  Let’s take a close look at this question, so we can understand just what God is telling us!


The Definition of “Yeast”


We usually think of leavening as including baking powder, sour milk and soda, and yeast -- all of which expand with the steam to form a gas as a major force.  But does this make them real “leavening”?


Not necessarily.  We tend to forget how these things cause products to rise.  In these cases, it is the mechanical incorporation of air from which the rising power comes. You can give a boost to the chemical reactions, by creaming fat and sugar, and learning to fold and mix batters, or even beating eggs.  By beating the whites to that state called “stiff, but not dry,” they will when baked rise very nicely. 


The question is, then, what does GOD mean when He says we are to put away “all leaven”? 


Leaven, in the Scriptures, can be two words.  One is seor and means “yeast cake,” as swelling by fermentation.  It is from the word sha’ar meaning “to swell up.”  The other word is chametz.  It means “to be pungent,” “sour, i.e., fermented.”  Figuratively, it can mean “harsh,” and “cruel.” 

            Biblical “leavening” is that which causes something to swell up or change its basic nature by fermentation – a process which completely alters the basic substance by souring or fermenting it, and causing it to swell up.  Yeast is a substance which causes this kind of chemical change and reaction.


The Amazing World of Yeasts


Yeasts are living organisms with 3,200 billion cells to the pound -- and not one is exactly alike. They feed on sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide – which is what causes the “rising.”  The Mexicans speak of yeast doughs as the “almas” – that is, in English, the “souls.”



One ounce raises 28 cups of flour in about 7 hours. For speedier rising, an excess of yeast is often added. But this is not necessary and often affects flavor and gives a porous texture. Small quantities of sugar also speed yeast activity, but too much will inhibit it. You may have noticed that it takes very sweet doughs longer to rise. As salt also inhibits yeast, never use salted water for dissolving yeast. In very hot weather, after the yeast is dissolved and added to the flour, salt may be added in small quantities to control too rapid fermentation.


Yeast dough is allowed to rise and fall a number of times during dough-making to improve the texture, but if allowed to over-expand it can use up its energy. In this case, there is little rising power left for the baking period when it is most needed. 


Baking Powder and Baking Soda


Surprising as it may seem, despite what you may have been taught in the past, both baking powder and baking soda are not “yeast” or “leavening” at all.  They do not cause fermentation.  Therefore, it is all right to use baking powder or baking soda during the Days of Unleavened Bread.  They are not, strictly speaking, leavening agents.  It is true that some Jews avoid using baking powder, but that is only because it contains flour which they incorrectly reject at Passover because it could become leavened (if exposed to air, and therefore to yeast spores).  So they proscribe it at Passover. 


Neither one, however, is technically “leaven” or “yeast” at all.  Yes, they do make things “rise,” but “rising” is not what “leaven” is all about.  Rising can be good or bad, depending on what kind of “rising” we are talking about.  Rising up in rebellion is wickedness; rising up before the elderly is a sign of respect.  Rising up to greet the day, is good.  God says to His people, “Rise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1).  Rising up in a “fermented state” of mind, causing corruption, of course, would be the essence of the wrong like of “yeast-like” attitude! 


The apostle Paul wrote:  “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are.  For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor.5:6-8, NIV).


Chametz and Yetser Hara


Chametz (yeast) “is a metaphor for the yeser hara, the evil tendency, which is rooted in pride.  The leavened dough has the bloated shape of pompous self-importance and arrogance.  Like the rising dough, pride grows continually.  The search for chametz [to get rid of it from our property], in a figurative sense, is the self-examination we should undertake to pinpoint our evil tendencies.  The burning [or getting rid of] the chametz symbolizes the heartfelt elimination of our negative inclination” (The Essence of the Holy Days, Avraham Yaacov Finkel, page 149).


Baking soda and baking powder don’t change the nature of the thing itself. They cause things to fluff up in a good sense.  They don’t alter the BASIC NATURE of a thing by causing fermentation!   Jews do use baking soda, and even baking powder if it is flour free.  That’s why there are Jewish Passover recipes containing them for Passover use.  They reject flour in something, assuming that the flour might contain leaven.  This, however, is what I would call “over-kill.”  Since flour itself is not a leaven, it is not wrong to use baking powder with flour in it. 


Remember, we read in Exodus 12, that when the Israelites left Egypt, “So the people took their dough [flour dough] before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing” (Exodus 12:34).  They kept their flour, but did not allow water and air, with the air-borne yeast, to come into contact with it, thereby keeping leaven-free.  Even so, we can use flour during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and baking soda or baking powder, but we must not leave the flour dough exposed to the air longer than 18 minutes, before popping it in the oven to bake!


Leavening Works Rapidly


Eighteen minutes is the length of time when flour dough, left exposed to the air, becomes “leavened” by the leavening agents floating in the air!  Chametz (leaven) means “any dough prepared from flour (of the ‘five species’:  wheat, rye, spelt, barley, and oats) mixed with water, which is allowed to ferment for eighteen minutes before being baked” (The Essence of the Holy Days, by Avraham Yaakov Finkel, p.147).


Notice how swiftly dough can become leavened, if left “exposed” to the elements around us!  So it is with our own minds, if left exposed to wicked surroundings and volatile temptations!  Thus to prevent leavening and fermentation, both physically of our bread dough, and spiritually of our minds, time is of the essence!  Our bread dough must be baked quickly, and not left to “sit around,” absorbing contamination from the air! 


And so it is in our spiritual lives.  We dare not “sit around,” allowing wafting particles of “sin” or “temptation,” to begin sifting into our minds through carelessness, lack of attention, and sheer lethargy.  The Christian life is to be a life of activity, action, careful introspection, and OVERCOMING the yester hara, or “evil impulse” of our flesh and mind! 


Chametz Vs. Matzah


Says Lesli Koppelman Ross, in Celebrate!  The Complete Jewish Holidays Handbook, “As we get rid of leaven and replace it with matzah [unleavened, flat bread], we are supposed to confront whatever it is that we normally allow to persist in our lives but which should perhaps, like the leaven, be eliminated, and that which we suppress which should, like the back-to-basics unleavened bread, be admitted” (p.14).


Koppelman explains what chametz really means:


            “The first century Alexandrian-Jewish philosopher Philo called chametz

            the stuff that makes baked goods expand and swell with air, the puff of

            pride, self-aggrandizement.  Allowed to stand around all year, chametz

            gets into nooks and crannies, becoming stale in places we do not even

            realize it is imbedded – in the way of  routine thought patterns and



            “When we rout out chametz, we are really trying to rout out the nega-

            tive, stale, deadening, enslaving elements, the egotism and subconscious

            habits that interfere with fully realizing our potential.  Searching every

            corner of our  homes is a physical reflection of a deep soul search,

            changing our diet an external expression of an internal  transforma-

            tion.  Like the Israelites who made a break from accepting slavery

            and idolatry in Egypt, we can sweep away whatever it is that binds

            us to meaningless efforts – whether it is outside influences or the

            internal compulsions that subjugate us to wasteful or harmful actions.


            “There is only a thin line between virtue and vice, as between polar

            opposites (love and hate, brilliance and imbecility, pain and pleasure)

            or between the pride that gives us the impetus to accomplish good

            things in the world and the pride that makes us so arrogant that, like

            Pharaoh, we think we are God.


            “The same is true of the difference between chametz, which we must

            completely eliminate during Passover, and matzah, which we must eat.                                        The extension of the line of a letter (the v of vmn, matzah, into the

j of z‘nj, chametz, [z‘ is the form of tzaddi, the letter in the middle of

matzah,when it becomes the last letter of a word]), and the lapse of a

second (flour of one of the five grains mixed with water and baked 18.01

            minutes instead of 17.59 minutes), is not matzah but chametz.  If we

            stand back and let things developed unchecked, we have the prohibited

            chametz.  If we step in to insure that protective boundaries are not

            violated, we have the permitted matzah.  One small stroke, one brief

            moment, can make all the difference in what we create around us”

            (Celebrate!, page 34).


The Real Lesson


            There is a great spiritual lesson in getting rid of “leavening” during the Days of Unleavened Bread.


Many of us who used to be in the Worldwide Church of God, have a lot of unlearning to do because false teaching and assumptions.  Sometimes they came “close” to the truth, but then got it all confused and tangled up – like a fishing line that becomes snarled and looks like a “bird’s nest” – all fouled up!  All you can do is cut the line and get a new one!


The simple truth is that the Worldwide Church of God was in error in its definition of leaven, and did not understand these things, or the real definition of “leavening” and “leaven” in the Bible.  So they did not have it right.  Part right, but not entirely so.  They forbad things which were not leavening, in their misguided teachings. 


Likewise, all the “sectarian groups” that have come out of that Church have preserve and imbibed of the SAME ERROR and misunderstanding!  They all forbid both baking soda and baking powder, and they have ignored Jewish sources all together, as well as the plain Hebrew definitions of the words translated “leaven” or “yeast” in the English Bible! 


On the other hand, Rabbinic Judaism has also gone too far in a different direction.  The Jews also proscribe many other things which don't really have true leaven in them – rabbis say chametz means “sour” and refers to five kinds of cereal and grains – wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats -- and any pure form of them which has the potential to become leavened.   This seems very strange to me, however.  “Potential” is not the same thing as “leaven.”  If such products are kept safe, away from moisture and air, so that no leavening spores can fall upon them, then they would not become contaminated or become “leavened.” 


Rabbis also proscribe grain-based alcohol products, including beer.  They reject vinegar except pure cider vinegar or wine vinegar made especially for Passover.  They reject any canned or bottled or processed foods containing corn starch, and syrups. 


All these prohibitions are excessive (like stringent Sabbath laws becoming a yoke of bondage).  It is “over kill.”  Chametz means leavening agents, which cause a change in the nature of the product.  It “corrupts,” “alters the basic nature,” of something by the process of “fermentation.”  Beating eggs and adding to flour to make biscuits will cause them to rise -- but that is not “leavening.”  It is not the “rising” that is wrong, but the nature of the change in the product. 


The Scriptures say these are the days of unleavened bread -- so specifically bread is the subject -- not beer, liquor, etc. 


During the Days of Unleavened Bread, we should not put any leaven in any of our breads  -- cookies, pies, pastries, cakes, etc. – eaten or served during these days.  It should be totally avoided. 


But this does not mean we are required to get rid of all flour, barley, or other grains – so long as they are not leavened – but we should keep them free from becoming leavened, by keeping them from becoming exposed to air and water or moisture). 


We do not need to become fanatics about it, or splitting hairs over it, like others who go about trying to establish their own form of “righteousness” and over-extending God’s laws by building human, rabbinic “FENCES” around the commandments.  By adding so many minutae to God’s simple commandments, by their interpretations, the rabbis have created a “yoke of bondage” which the apostle Peter declared – “a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10, NIV). 


So, with this new understanding, I would now tell people that BOTH baking powder AND baking soda are all right to use.  This is a change from our previous understanding.  I did not know then that the only reason baking powder was rejected was because it contained flour.  Well, so does matzos!  Flour is not leaven, however.  Of course, we should avoid any flour which has leaven in it such as self-rising flour.


Says Leslie Koppleman Ross, “You may be surprised to see Pesakh recipes calling for baking soda and baking powder, which are used to make cake rise.  Unlike yeasts and sour dough, they are not considered leavening (any more than are the eggs used to make fluffy Pesakh cakes)” (p.39).  This author points out that baking soda is merely a derivative of salt (sodium bicarbonate) and is therefore approved for Passover usage.


A Most Serious Command


Putting out the leaven, during the Days of Unleavened Bread, should not be taken lightly.  In seven passages God commands us to do it.


God says:


            “[In the celebration of the Passover in future years] seven days shall

            you eat unleavened bread; even the first day you shall put away leaven

            [symbolic of corruption] out of your  houses; for whoever eats leavened

            bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut

            off from Israel” (Exo.12:15, Amplified Parallel Bible).


            “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening,

            you shall eat unleavened bread [and continue] until the twent-first

            day of the month at evening” (verse 18).


            “Seven days no leaven [symbol of corruption] shall be found in your

            houses; whoever eats what is leavened shall be excluded from the

            congregation of Israel, whether a stranger or native-born” (verse 19).


            “You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat

            unleavened bread” (verse 20).


            “Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread

            shall be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven in all your

            territory” (Exo.13:7).


            “You shall eat no leavened bread with it [the Passover]; for seven

            days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction –

            for you fled from the land of Egypt in haste – that all the days of

            your life you may [earnestly] remember the day when you came

            out of Egypt” “Deut.16:3).


            “No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven

            days . . . .” (Deut.16:4).


Seven times this commandment is repeated in the Torah!  Seven is God’s perfect or complete number.  It must be very significant.  God wants us to get this RIGHT!


The punishment for violating this commandment is one of the most severe – being “cut off” from the people of Israel – or being cast out from God’s people (and His church!).  This penalty applies to only one other positive commandment – that of circumcision (physical or spiritual, as the case may be).  In both cases, refusing to put out the leaven, or being circumcised (spiritually, in the case of Christians – see Romans 2:26-27), the result is that the violator is separating himself by refusing to demonstrate obedience to God, loyalty to Him, and allegiance to His community and government.  


Keeping hold of chametz willfully and deliberately, during these days of unleavening, is tantamount to keeping hold of SIN, and wickedness, and refusing to abandon the ways of Egypt, and the yester hara or “evil inclination” of human nature (Jer.17:9; Rom.8:7).  And remember, “The wages of SIN is death” (Rom.6:23).


Therefore, it is important that we observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread correctly, with joy and gladness, and obedient to the commandments concerning the Feast.  The understanding of what leavening is, and is not, is paramount to keeping the Feast correctly.  And so is the knowledge that we are COMMANDED to observe this Feast and EAT unleavened bread ALL SEVEN DAYS of the Feast itself!


Let’s DO What God Says!


God simply means what He says.  That is all there is to it.  The word of God declares, “Whatever I command you, be watchful to do it; you shall not add to it or diminish from it” (Deut.12:32, Amplified Parallel Bible). 


Along those same lines, God says elsewhere:  “Now listen and give heed, O Israel, to the statues and ordinances which I teach you, and DO them, that you may live    . . .


“You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut.4:1-2).


Obeying God as He commands us to do may not seem all that important to mere men, or some ministers or teachers, who insist on putting the words of other men before and ahead of the plain Word of God.


But who are we going to follow?  Self-important, self-aggrandizing, egocentric men, who are not only fallible, but often inconsiderate, careless, arrogant, and proud?


Or are we going to obey GOD and put His Word first in our lives?


David wrote, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help.  When his breath leaves him, he returns to his earth; in that very day his [previous] thoughts, plans, and purposes perish.  Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is he who has the God of [special revelation to] Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, Who keeps truth and is faithful forever” (Psalm 146:3-6).


Solomon wrote so plainly, “There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death” (Prov.14:12).  This very proverb is repeated in Proverbs 16:25.  It is “doubled” as it were for “double emphasis.”  God knows that human beings are not prone to pay much attention to something mentioned only one time.  So He warns us TWICE of this vital principle.  And seven times He warns us to put leaven out of our homes during the seven days of unleavened bread, and to eat unleavened bread seven days. 


Unless we do precisely as God says, how can we ever expect to fully enjoy, appreciate, and LEARN the great lessons that full obedience will give to us?  There is a great LESSON in abstaining from real leavening and yeast, and there is a great lesson as well in EATING the unleavened bread, or matzah, for all seven days of the Feast!  Each day we obey, we build character and obedience; we grow in grace and in knowledge and depth and understanding.   Each day keep leavening out, we grow in putting out the influences of human nature and the “evil inclination,” and each day we “eat” the unleavened bread – which represents the body of Christ Jesus, Yeshua the Messiah (John 6:48) – we grow in building the character demonstrated by the flat, plain, humble, simple matzah – humility, godliness, earnestness, plainness of expression, simplicity of life, fear and awe of God, and the trait of continuing and uninterrupted OBEDIENCE! 


What precious lessons!  And how wonderful they are for God to see His children willingly and whole-heartedly OBEYING Him and keeping His word diligently!


Why should we even think of diminishing the Feast?  Why should we even desire to minimize it, by disobeying God and failing to eat the commanded “unleavened bread” for all seven days of the “Feast”?  It is a seven day feast, not a “one day” feast, or “occasional” Feast, or “every-other day” feast!  Why be negligent? 


If you know God’s commandments, then happy are you – and blessed – if you DO them!