"Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new loaf, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Pesach (Passover) lamb has been sacrificed." --1 Corinthians 5:7
“'For seven days you are to eat matzot — on the first day remove the leaven from your houses. For whoever eats chametz [leaven] from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Isra’el.'"
Bedikat chametz is the search for leaven that takes place prior to the Jewish moed (Holy remembrance) of Pesach (Passover). The search happens after nightfall on the evening before Pesach (the night of the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan.) It's an event that takes place as spring approaches in the land of Israel.
"On the first day for matzot, when the Pesach lamb is slaughtered, Yeshua’s talmidim asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and prepare your Seder?'"
All of the lights in the house are turned off, and a candle is lit. The following blessing is then recited:
In order to make sure chametz is found, several pieces of chametz are hidden, preferably by a child, prior to the practice of Bedikat Chametz.
It's traditional to use a feather and a wooden spoon to recover the chametz (leaven), when a piece of chametz is found the feather is used to sweep the piece of chametz into the wooden spoon, which is then used to place it in a paper bag. A candle is the traditional light source but it's acceptable to use a flashlight. In some traditions, searchers ring a bell to announce the discovery of chametz. In other words, they celebrate it's removal.
Every room is searched and the collected pieces of chametz are then taken outside to be burned in a small fire. Thus the house is cleansed of all chametz (leaven).
The Remez (Hint, Allegory)
There are several significant symbolic elements in the practice of Bedikat Chametz:
All who have refused the light of Messiah are living in darkness. It's impossible to find anything in the dark without a light. This means that both the awareness of sin and the joys of life are beyond the spiritual perception of those who have refused the salvation proposed by the Messiah Yeshua.
Yeshua has said,
"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" --Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:23
The Yeast (Chametz)
In Messianic Judaism yeast (chametz) is without exception, a symbol of sin. Those who walk in darkness are unable to understand the true nature of sin because it's the light of Messiah, Who is the goal of the Torah, that exposes sin in our lives. Some believers are self condemning when they find that after years of following Messiah they are still finding sin in their lives that needs removal. However this is a not a sign that we are failing in our journey, rather it's a sign that Yeshua's light is still alive and at work in us. We have been redeemed and we are being sanctified, made holy. It is the person who observes no sin in themselves who is not walking with Messiah.
Messiah Yeshua Himself is represented in the light.
"Then Yeshua (Jesus) again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'” --Yochanan/John 8:12
The first thing one notices when performing Bedikat Chametz, is that the light of a single candle can illuminate a dark room, exposing even the smallest remnants of leaven. We become aware that we are performing this task with our entire family, both our individual sin and our corporate sin is being exposed. It is impossible to hold the candle and sweep up the leaven at the same time, in this we see a metaphor for the spread of the light of Messiah through the lives of believers, who pass on His gospel to others, offering to reflect His light into their dark lives. It is also a picture of the role of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh our Helper, who brings to mind the light and teaching of our Messiah.
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and humanity loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in G-d.” --Yochanan/John 3:19-21
The search reminds us that as believers we participate in right action as a result of the light of Messiah. There is no separation between belief and action, faith and halakhah, being and right doing. In Messiah, as in pre-hellenistic Judaism, there is no word for theology: thought is action and action is thought, inaction is thoughtless and thoughtlessness is inaction. Darkness is separation, light is unity. When we walk in the light we are participating in the unity of the body of Messiah.
In ancient times, yeast is likely to have been found in lumps, today we often see it mixed into flour or in small granules. The feather is used because it's able to pick up even the smallest specs of leaven, thus removing all trace of the yeast. However, this applies only to what we can see, after all, there is leaven in the air, the entire creation has been affected by sin since the fall of humanity. Therefore we are reliant on the light to incinerate the remaining leaven in the atomosphere, hence the Torah provides a sacrifice for the unknown sins of the people. Yeshua is the only one who is able to fully cleanse us, we cannot invent our own light and remove our own sin, we are helpless without His sacrificial death and His victorious ressurection. It's in Yeshua that we find the light of G-d. G-d is light and in Him there is no darkness.
Yeshua has provided a means for the removal of sin from our lives. The Scriptures say:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." --1 Yochanan/John 1:9
Notice that the plural, "sins," is used. When we accept Yeshua's saving chesed (grace) we confess that we have sinned (plural) and that we are in need of His help. Thus He forgives our sins, past, present and future and sees us perfected outside of time. While we continue to be sanctified within time through His saving work, we are already secure outside of time because He is faithful and just and has already redeemed (past tense) us. The sin is taken outside the camp to be burned, Yeshua spoke of the torment of eternal punishment for those who refuse Him and remain intinsically attached to their sin:
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping andgnashing of teeth.’" --Mattitiyahu/Matthew 22:13
The burning is an obliteration of sin, after the fire fades it is impossible to retrieve the yeast, it's completely gone. This is also true of the cleansing fire of our Messiah Yeshua. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3), the fire removes the bondage (ropes) of our sin but leaves us unscathed. Yeshua stands with us through the cleansing fire and we walk free in His arms. For those who reject Him the fire will consume both them and their sin. A House that has been cleansed of mildew and black mold need not be burned down, however a house that has been left to be permeated by black mold cannot be redeemed, it will be burned to the ground.
The fire that comes from Yeshua's eyes is a cleansing light to those being saved and a burning torment to those being lost.
"They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." ----Mattitiyahu/Matthew 13:42
Finaly we celebrate our freedom from sin. Nisan is the spiritual new year for Israel:
“This month is to be for you the first month,the first month of your year." --Shemot/Exodus 12:2
We celebrate the opportunity to allow Messiah to shine His light into every room in our lives and the life of our community so that we can continue in the journey of being made holy. We celebrate the fact that we are no longer blind to sin, that we have been given the means to be free. It is for freedom He has set us free, that we might no longer walk in bondage and darkness unaided by light. We celebrate above all else, the light of our Messiah Yeshua and the chesed (grace, mercy and lovingkindness) of the Father HaShem as revealed to us by the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.