Unleavened

I get in trouble a lot during Passover.  I’d say it was’t my fault, but none of you would believe me.  You’re quite right; it is.

The problem, you see, is the variety of foods that can be considered chametz.  Chametz is the word used to describe foods that cannot be eaten (or even owned) during Passover.  It means “leavened,” which makes sense since the original rule was just that: no leavened bread.  Modern Jewish law has expanded chametz to mean any grain products not baked under rabbinical supervision and within a certain time frame (including pasta, crackers, cereal, etc) and also (depending on where you are from) a wide variety of “grain-like” foods, such as legumes, rice, potatoes, sesame seed, etc.

These are essentially “fence around the law” rules: rules established to make sure no one gets anywhere near breaking the Law.  And here’s the thing that bugs me.  As Messianic Jews, we typically ignore the traditional fences around the law.  Except at Passover.

It’s insane.  We eat cheeseburgers, we drive on Shabbat, we build our sukkot out of whatever’s convenient.  But at Passover, oh no, we’d better get rid of all the pasta and corn syrup and everything.  Why on earth do we follow the traditional laws in this one thing and nowhere else?

(Mind you, I’m speaking here of the Messianic families I am close to and know best.  It’s not that large a sample size.  There are plenty of Messianic Jews all over the spectrum of traditional practice.)

I think the most irritating one is one friend’s husband who explained to her that chametz means “puffed,” not just “leavened,” so anything that swells is out.  Where on earth does he think all the bubbles in matzah come from?

I find the whole thing infuriating.  I certainly don’t mind if people want to follow the traditional rules out of sentiment or personal choice, but not all of them do it for those reasons.  And there’s a few people who tend to be dogmatic in their assertion that these rules are important, and I tell them I think the rules are ridiculous, and I get in trouble.

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3 Responses to Unleavened

  1. CosetTheTable says:

    What drives me crazy is the thought of the WASTE. I’m sure there are many traditional families that go out of their way to use up open containers prior to passover, and what’s not open they donate to charity. I’m sure that there are plenty of families with minimal waste. But CORN SYRUP? And other things where it’s perfectly usual that one might have used only a little, and the rest is perfectly good, but the rest is opened and can’t really be donated to charity, only potentially friends of other religious traditions???

    I don’t know, despite going to as many seders as I could as a child, it’s not my tradition. And some of it makes PERFECT sense. I get the not eating yeasted bread. And I love the children-centric nature of the holiday, the passing down of traditions, and all of that. But certain things just frustrate me…..

    • Well, my family always just carted what we couldn’t use up to the basement for the duration, so there was rarely much waste. And I think a lot of traditional communities make arrangements to sell or donate it ahead of time. (Wikipedia informs me that the chametz-in-the-basement thing is even legal if you “sell” it to a gentile ahead of time, with the unspoken agreement that he will “sell” it back after Passover.) But yeah, I’m sure plenty gets thrown out, and that is a shame.

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