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April 02, 2007


Liz Neville

Batya-- even though I am a nice little Catholic girl, I continue to be fascinated by the wisdom in the Jewish tradition. I love the analogy to the leavening in the bread, and the usefulness of the matzah in emphasizing humility. Our Ash Wednesday tradition and the consequent walk with Jesus through the 40 days exile in the desert represents a similar ideal. I teach my religious ed. students (and learn myself) about ways to have a closer walk with God, especially in this time, by praying, fasting, and "active" charity.


What a great post, Batya. Happy Passover and Easter to all!


Thanks, Batya, for the matzo meditation. "Humble bread" - I love it!

For Christians, there is an echo of this Jewish wisdom in the words of the apostle Paul (who, after all, was originally a rabbi), words we echo every Easter:

"Your boasting is not a good thing. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened... Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

As Paul says, and Batya has reminded us in retelling the sages' analogy to the creation of humankind, the "unleavened" self is our true self. The "leaven" is our pride, our boasting, which quickly leads to malice and all kinds of evil.

I'm not sure if a simple shiksa like me can press this analogy a little further, but I had a thought... I used to think that chametz (leaven) was simply yeast or other leavening agents like sourdough or baking powder, but as I've gotten to know more about Orthodox Judaism, I've discovered that all kinds of things are chametz that you'd never think - including wheat or other grains (without yeast) that has been left to soak in the water too long.

In the same way, I find I can even become "proud" of my "modesty", if that makes any sense - I can get a sense of almost smug self-satisfaction that *I* am a good person, *I* am ordering my life so well. That is the sneaky, subtle leaven - much harder to eradicate!

The only way I can stay humble is to let God search out the chametz of pride in my life and "burn it up" with His holiness... and instead of focussing on myself too much (soaking in the water too long), present myself to the light and warmth of His presence as soon as possible. I may not be a very special loaf, but as "humble bread" I can be of use in ways that leavened bread cannot.

Thanks, Batya, for giving us lots to chew on (sorry, couldn't resist!):)

Passover & Easter blessings to all as well.


oh and Batya - that is a GREAT little movie you linked to on aish.com!


Wow, Batya! that gives new meaning to Paul's words, "charity is not puffed up..."


Thank you Liz, Elin and Spudmom for pressing the analogy further! Clearly there is a lot for us to learn from "nice Catholic girls" and "humble loaves."


Actually, Passover began at sun down on the 1st of April, not the second.

Maybe you are thinking of the search for chametz, which happens before Passover, but Passover actually began the 2nd.


No, the scripture, and Mishna, says that Passover begins at sundown on the 14th of the Moon of Greenears (commonly referred to as Nisan.) The evening of the fourtneeth (Lev. 24 Num. 9) occured on April 1st this year. To begin at sundown on April 2nd was to have missed the feast, because that is then the 15th, and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Lev. 23:6)

We have Christian history from the earliest times indicating that the Christians continued to observe passover on the 14th, a whole group of Christians who received the name "quartodecimians" testifies to this. They claimed "ancient tradition" handed down to them from the Apostle John as being the reason for observing Passover "according to the commandment." Eusebius records letters from the controversy that existed late in the 2nd century on this question.

It is the 14th and not the 15th that is the beginning of Passover.


Which scripture do you mean, and which translation of the Mishnah are you using?

It's kind of hard to take you seriously when on your blog you call David Horowitz "David Horowitz The Jew."

Batya Shevinsky

To clarify, Passover is observed as a Jewish holiday beginning on the eve of the fifteen of Nissan. This is the date observed here in Jerusalem, and also mentioned in Wikipedia.

It's very interesting to learn that there is a sect of Christianity that also observes a festival of unleavened bread. This is all the more evidence that we can all benefit from some humble bread. So. dear readers, back to the original question! Do you have any suggestions on how to cultivate this inner aspect of modesty called humility?


Sorry to be weighing in late, but Passover has kept me busy.

"David Horowitz The Jew" notwithstanding, the man poses a valid question. I think the confusion here is between when the lamb was *sacrificed* and when it was *eaten* at the seder. The Bible clearly states that the sacrifice is to take place on the 14th, and that the seder is to happen that evening, after the slaughter: "An unblemished lamb or kid, a male, within its first year shall it be for you; from the sheep or goats shall you take it. It shall be yours for examination until the fourteenth day of this month; the entire congregation of the assembly of Israel shall slaughter it in the afternoon.... They shall eat the flesh on that night--roasted over the fire--and matzos; with bitter herbs shall they eat it." (Shemos/Exodus 12:5).

The night mentioned here could not be the previous one (the 14th), because there was nothing to eat at that time. So if you want to be a literalist and go "according to the commandment" then it's the slaughter--no longer done post-Temple times--that's to be done on the 14th, not the seder.

But before you do that, a word of warning: Today, the Afikoman (the last piece of matzah eaten at the seder) replaces the Korban Pesach (the Passover lamb sacrifice). So the good news is that you needn't actually kill any cute little sheep to commemorate God's sparing the Jews from the Plague of the Death of the Firstborn.

Seriously, though, the idea of animal sacrifice is very strange to our modern ears but the symbolism is interesting. The sheep was sacred to the Egyptians. The Jews had to slaughter (renunciate) the Egyptian gods--show publicly that there was only one God--to be worthy of being brought out of slavery.

No simple matter, when you consider that the sheep belonged to their taskmasters.

As for Batya's original question, I have to think about it more. I suppose a nice start would be an appreciation that we are contributing to the world, but not in control of it!

Erin P

How to uncover humility during Passover and Easter...

Your discussion of "leavening" the bread/ourselves is so beautiful, Batya...

I believe it does very much have to do with what Wendy mentioned - we co-operate with God's plan but do not control it. This is so valuable for me to remember in the midst of work and wedding planning (6 weeks to go...)! I tend to overwork so as a Catholic celebrating Easter, I'm reminded of how our God became man in Jesus and embraced humility in a way we will never fully comprehend. And Jesus did the work of emptying himself out on the cross, died, and rose again.

I'm being offered a new beginning at Easter...and being asked to trust in God's will just as Jesus did, whatever consequences (and surprises) it brings. So I believe humility has a great deal to do with trust. And trying to live that everyday in small ways.


My former comment in response to your last question was deleted, so I'm not going to respond in depth to your questions/observations about the 14th/15th issue. However, I would just point that that the "aphikoman" didn't exist in New Testament times, nor in the centuries immediately following, (2nd and 3rd centuries) but was an invention of centuries many later.


Adam, we didn't receive any other comment from you so why don't you try reposting it.

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