We are coming to the end of this years Pesach season and with that comes the end of the period in which ‘unleavened bread’ isn’t eaten and chametz is removed from the home. Many go to extraordinary lengths to remove any evidence from the home that chametz ever existed. Judaism had built tradition and ritual around this feast in the form of fences that prevent any break in the commandment, removing the possible issues of accidental transgression (to use a very ‘churchy’ word. The world we live in, the diet we eat, it makes this particular commandment , ”For seven days you shall eat unleavened cakes, but on the preceding day you shall clear away all leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leaven from the first day until the seventh day that soul shall be cut off from Israel.‘‘ (Exodus 12:15), difficult. Bread, big and round, brown, white or black, has become the corner of many cultures diet. From Bagels to Buns, Baps to Brioche. Everything is bread crumbed, filled, rolled or stuffed. Subs, hoagies, dogs and even deep stuffed pizza. It’s hard these days to remove the leaven from our will and habit let alone our homes.
Israel of course didn’t of course feel the same loss and inconvenience with the commandment. They would have used flat bread a lot. People in the region still do. The exclusion of risen bread from their daily routine wouldn’t have seemed like a painful prospect, after all it’s only for a short period. So why does it seem so torturous to us?
At this time of year social media is full of memes and posts in which people are professing just how desperate they are for bread in all it’s forms. It feels as though at the feast of Pesach many of us take a big inhale of breath and then hold it for the next week, slowly panicking, knowing that at the end we eat bread. That point of view seems a little back to front though. The point of removing leaven is to give us a reminder, not of hardship – the hardship came before the people of Israel were released from Egypt by the mercy and will of the Creator, no, the reminder is that freedom came and it came quickly. The re-living of that event in our diet is to bring us back to the main point. The Creator provided. He gave freedom. He gave provision. He gave a plan. These days it might be called a ‘How to built an Exodus bug-out bag’. For us, the hardship is not eating a nice big sandwich, for Israel it was years of oppression. Maybe we should refocus.
Surely, remembering His love for the house of Jacob is a time to exhale and breath deeply. A time to experience the cool air of freedom. A time to remember that He delivered His chosen people from bondage with His mighty aim.
What’s a breadless week compared to that?
Redemption, surely, the best thing before sliced bread.. and after.