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The Greatest Commandments, Part 13, Unleavened Bread Edition

Passover is technically a single-day festival; however, the day after begins Unleavened Bread, which is a week-long feast. Because of this, most folks meld in their minds Passover and Unleavened Bread together as a single feast.

In fact, even the Rambam hardly distinguishes between these, even calling these two feasts as simply “the 7 days of Passover”.

Today we’ll be looking at the commandments on the chametz (leaven, yeast)-free feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

Eat unleavened bread during Passover and Unleavened Bread

On 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.

-Exodus 12:18

This is the commandment everyone’s familiar with – matzah time!


Everybody loves matzah. Except my wife, who likens it to cardboard. :-)

I’ve derived this commandment from the “observe your new year in the first month, the month in which Passover falls”:



No Eating Leaven During Passover

Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.

-Exodus 13:3

An inverted and more general version of the above commandment to eat unleavened bread: no eating anything with leaven.

I’ve derived the commandment from a more specific commandment we’ll discuss in a moment:


No Eating Mixtures Containing Leaven

Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.

-Exodus 12:20

An expansion on the above commandment, any food that contains leaven should not be eaten during Passover and Unleavened Bread.

The interpretation again is questionable. The text alone suggests a repeat of Exodus 13:3’s “eat nothing with yeast”. Seeing it difficult to both stay faithful to the text, but still have a distinct commandment from Exodus 13:3, I’ve gone with Maimonides’ interpretation: “no eating mixtures containing chametz”.

I’ve derived this from the above commandment not to eat leaven during Passover:


Remove leaven from your home on Passover

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.

-Exodus 12:15

Maimonides actually interprets this commandment as “destroy all chametz on the 14th day”.

End result? Many families will actually burn the leaven in their homes before the Passover begins, perhaps in response in part to the Rambam’s interpretation to destroy leaven.

I deem this commandment derived from the “no eating leavened bread during Passover” commandment:


No seeing leaven in your home during Unleavened Bread

Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders.

-Exodus 13:7

What seems like a passive side-effect of the “no leaven in your homes” commandment, Maimonides interprets this as an active commandment: don’t see leaven in your homes.

It’s a rather awkward commandment: how does one carry out a commandment to “not see” leaven in your home? Well, I’d say, you’d rid the leaven from your home. Which is already a commandment.

For these reasons, I think Maimonides is mistaken in interpreting this verse as a separate commandment.

I’ve derived this dubious interpretation from the above commandment to remove leaven from your home:


No finding leaven in your home during Unleavened Bread

For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses.

-Exodus 12:19a

Like the commandment to “not see leaven in your home”, this commandment also seems more like a side-effect of another commandment, rather than a commandment in itself.

Nonetheless, the Rambam deems it an explicit commandment to not find leaven in your home during Unleavened Bread. His interpretation is “not to find leaven in your domain for seven days”.

I’ve derived it like so:


The Big Picture

We’ve added many Passover commandments to our commandments hierarchy – behold!

CommandmentsHierarchy13Thumb (Click to view full size)

And here are the stats so far:

  • 68 commandments have been mapped.
  • The project is 11% completed.
  • 85% are related to loving God.
  • 15% are related to loving your neighbor.
  • 97% can be carried out in modern times.
  • 13% can be carried out only in Israel.
  • 36% are positive commandments.
  • 64% are negative commandments.
  • 61% are observed by Christians:
    • Of which, 33% obeyed, 20% attempted, 7% recognized.
  • 94% are observed by Messianics:
    • Of which, 61% obeyed, 23% attempted, 8% recognized.
  • 95% are observed by observant Jews:
    • Of which, 63% obeyed, 25% attempted, 7% recognized.
  • 7% have alternate readings.
  • 25% are from Exodus.
  • 30% are from Leviticus.
  • 3% are from Numbers.
  • 41% are from Deuteronomy.
  • The average commandment length is 133 characters.
  • The average summary length is 33 characters.

That’s a wrap – these are all the commandments applying to Passover and Unleavened Bread…except for the sacrifices. We’ll cover those another time, perhaps next Passover.

Until then, fine blog readers, enjoy your weekend and the rest of Passover and Unleavened Bread (it ends on the Jewish calendar on Monday, April 5th, and ends astronomically on Wednesday, April 7th).


  1. I'm enjoying the mapping of the commandments. My 613 class is discussion based and it takes quite a bit longer to progress from one commandment to the next. That said, we also cover quite a lot of other, related territory.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Wow this is amazing...I have no words!


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