And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
Exodus 12:17 (KJV)
Unleavened bread – So let’s look at this sentence again. We know that the words “the feast of” were added, so where are we at? Is God telling us to observe the feast of unleavened bread, or just observe the unleavened bread? The Feast of Unleavened Bread is one of His holy days and He does require we observe it, but is that what God is doing here? At first we might think, yes, it makes sense here. But there’s some beautiful wordplay going on that we completely miss when adding “the feast of” to this verse.
Before we jump into the wordplay, we need to note that God is instructing the Israelites to observe the unleavened bread, but why? They needed to make sure the bread would not become leavened and rise. This is the Feast of Unleavened Bread after all, right?
But what’s even more interesting is the Hebrew word matstsah which literally means “unleavened bread”. So what’s so interesting about that? Well think of Paul’s words in his epistle to the Corinthians. He likens leaven with sin. And sin, we know, is breaking God’s law. This now brings us to the Hebrew word for “commandment”. Stay with me here.
The Hebrew word for commandment is mitsvah. Can you see the resemblance between matstsah and mitsvah? Say each one out loud, it’s uncanny. And when we understand that Hebrew is a language without vowels, these words become even more similar when written.
Well it just so happens that Rashi in the Mekhilta draws a relationship here in Exodus 12:17. He states that the word matstsah (unleavened bread) can be read as mitsvah (commandment). So just as the Israelites were instructed to observe the unleavened bread so it doesn’t become leavened, we too are supposed to observe the commandments so that we don’t become leavened with sin.
Wow, the beauty of the Hebrew language just doesn’t stop! So many gems are lost when finishing God’s sentences and throwing our own words in where he never intended. So in keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread this year, remember to observe the unleavened bread that it doesn’t become leavened. In practicing the physical, we are improving the spiritual.