custom of Pesach
Pesach meal commemorates the events of Exodus. Its major feature was haste, and
the reenactment also emphasizes haste. Ex12:11 tells to eat in hurry.
should eat the meal with girded loins, in shoes (otherwise removed during meals),
and with staff. Those attributes symbolize readiness to go, to follow God’s
solemn, fast, and symbolic meal of Pesach is anything but a drunken feast
instituted by the Pharisees.
cells are prominent in the ancient words about food: mtzh (pressed,
rolled out), lhm (heated, cooked food), hmtz (hm-mtz, baked
bread), hmr (hm-mr, hot bitter drink, wine). The wordplay
underscores the importance of root meaning, Ex12:20: All that is h’metzet
you shall not eat…you shall eat matzot.
prescribed matzot are not specifically unleavened bread. The etymological
meaning pressed corresponds with the actual process of rolling out solid
flat cakes from crushed wheat and barley.
alternative was to bake the bread. In the traditional Egyptian villages, baking
requires a day work by two people, and was a luxury in antiquity.
was not an issue. Egyptian festive bread was typically made with sesame seeds
and dates. Such bread is eaten soon and does not ferment in practice. Yet, matzot
lack those prominent ingredients. The point of matzot was to avoid
festivities. Exodus was a solemn, risky, and controversial affair, and no reason
prohibits sor and hametz during the Pesach. Sor cannot mean
leaven because the ancients lacked the concept of it. They used old crumbled
bread mixed with water for leaven, and possibly beer. Their line of reasoning
was that old bread causes the dough to rise; they did not conceptualize yeast
and need not a word for it. Sor meant any dough.
need not absurdly search their houses for leaven crumbles on Pesach. It would be
too burdensome for the ancients to throw away potentially leavened food before
the holiday. Pharisaic legal fiction of hypocritically selling that food to
Gentiles is unnecessary. Ex12:19 only prohibits to keep dough in houses. The
prohibition is practical: no one kept the dough for a week, and its presence
proved the intention to bake the bread immediately. That violated the major
injunction against eating baked bread, hametz. Keeping leavened foods was
prohibits dough (sor) and baked bread (hametz) in the houses.
does not mean leaven. The word consists of two prominent root cells, hm+mtz,
hot+pressed. The common translation warm is incorrect. Freshly baked
bread, described as ham, is hot. Ham is progenitor of African peoples who
live in hot, not warm climate. Hametz has the connotation of hot+press,
baked, not pungent (fermented).
understanding of hametz is confirmed by Hos7:4: bad baker ceases to watch
the dough from kneading until it becomes hmtz in the hot oven. Dough does
not leaven in oven but rather is baked.
dough leavened with sodium or bacteria rises during baking. Hosea’s humtzato
could theoretically mean risen. Rising of dough is, however, an active
process, while humtzato is passive. Baking of the dough is the result of
external action, heating, and could be described as humtzato. In Hos7:4, hmtz
meaning of hametz evolved from baked to leavened food because baked bread
is often leavened.
shall “abstain from wine and strong drink, he shall not drink hometz
wine and hometz strong drink” (Num6:3). Beer was used to ferment the
dough, and could be described as hometz, the thing that leavens.
however, was not used to ferment the dough, at least because of its colorizing
effect. Hometz could not describe the leavening effect of wine. That the
wine itself is fermented, would be described as hametz, not hometz.
name for wine, hemer, is suggestive. Its cognates are homer (boiling,
unrest), hamar (to redden, rise), and hemar (asphalt). All of them
follow the hm root cell meaning, hot. Naturally, the meaning widened from
temperature to action, thus unrest, rise, and hamora (she-donkey). Wine
is also hot in the sense of making one active.
in Num6:3 refers not to fermenting, but to the agitating effect of wine and beer.
Hometz similarly means violent in Ps71:4, fully realizing its
etymological meaning of hm-mtz, hot and pressing. Num6:3-4
prohibit alcohol intoxication of Nazirite by whatever means.
traditional rendering, “He shall abstain from wine and beer, fermented wine
and fermented beer he shall not drink,” is senseless. No one ever calls wine
“fermented wine.” The qualification is too obvious; wine could only be
fermented. Rather, the reading is, “He shall abstain from wine and beer,
strong [lit.,agitating] wine and strong beer he shall not drink.” Here
is the proper emphasis on the intoxicating effect of alcohol, unacceptable for
Num6:3 describes wine as hometz casts doubts on the Pharisaic tradition
of drinking wine on Pesach, when eating hametz is prohibited. That
drinking (as opposed to eating) hametz is not explicitly forbidden, is
hardly an argument.
involves mixing flour with much water. Left in water for too long, the flour
ferments. Indeed, the Egyptians made beer-like alcohol drink by mixing grain
with water, and adding bread pieces to speed up fermentation. The Pesach idea is
to avoid alcohol. The Pharisaic four glasses of wine run against it.
derives from hll, hollow or cut through, perforated. That is typical
eastern hollow bread, usually unleavened. Halot matzot in Lev7:12 are pressed
cakes which are easy to oil. In Lev7:13, halot lehem hametz means baked
bread; unlike matzot, it is soft, soaks with oil, tends to break when
sodden, and inconvenient to carry then.
in the modern tradition, matza was not specifically perforated; hala
hametz as leavened leaves Lev7:12-13 senseless: the same thanksgiving
offering must be strictly unleavened (7:12) or strictly leavened (7:13).
Pharisees came up with various tortured explanations. They invented a new type
of sacrifice, “his peace-offerings for thanksgiving,” where the text clearly
says, “thanksgiving offerings for his fullness [well-being].” They presumed
that thanksgiving sacrifice was unleavened, and peace offering for thanksgiving
was leavened. Leavened offerings were burnt not on the altar, but supposedly
below it. Reading hametz as baked makes the text clear and sensible:
pressed bread with oil, baked bread without oil.
as baked also makes more sense of the prohibition of hametz on altar. The
opinion that the Hebrews considered leavened bread decayed and not up to the
status of offering, is incredible. Leavened bread was difficult to make; it was
expensive and festive food. Animal fat was clearly uglier than leavened bread,
decayed fast – yet was sacrificed on altar. Burning hametz was
prohibited for ethical reasons, as symbolic destruction of valuable food and the
result of the extra toll. Another reason for prohibiting hametz on the
altar is that hametz was already burned (baked), and should not be burned
the second time.
are only rolled out, perhaps sun-dried. Halot matzot are the matzot
baked after being rolled out.
stands out from the context with sudden change from you to they.
instructs to eat the bread, presumably soon after killing the sheep at dusk
(12:6). But the Hebrews left late at night, if not in the morning, with still
unbaked dough (12:34). 12:8 relates to Pesach festivals, not the actual events.
is inserted in the context to retrospectively justify Pesach festivals. It
obviously made no sense for the Hebrews in Egypt to sit the entire frightful
night with staff in hands. It is unimaginable that the Hebrews enjoyed the
festive meal (with meat) when terrible things happened just outside their houses.
Ex12:21-28, Moses instructs the elders about the preparations, but says not a
word about the meal.
were sacrificed, not eaten. It was important that every Hebrew household be
protected with sacrificial blood on its doors. Size of families was directly
related to their wealth; small families were poor. Thus small families were told
to pool their resources to procure sacrificial lambs – not because they could
not eat them, but to make sure they can afford the animals.
ability to purchase lambs was related to the number of people, specifically of
the “eating male mouths” (Ex12:4). That reference to eating suggested the
interpreters that the lambs were eaten.
Pesach food regulations deal only with bread, not meat (Ex12:15,18-20). That was
rectified in 12:43-50 which deals only with meat. 12:43-50 also introduces the
condition of circumcision, absent from the regulations about bread.
of Ex12:7-8 necessitated torturing of 12:9. There is no grammatical reason to
read na as raw, bashel as sodden, and zli as roast.
Give flesh to burn to the priest. Sacrifices were burned (zli), not
roasted. Zli meant specifically sacrificial burning, thus Aramaic zalei,
to bow down. Is44:16 connects burning meat with pagan worship. Isaiah’s izle
zali relates extremely intense action, burn by burning, not mild roasting.
1Sam2:15, basar m’vushal refers to the meat boiling in a pot (2:14),
not merely sodden.
correct reading of Ex12:9 is, Verily, you shall not eat of it, or boil it down
in water, but [it would be preferred if you] burn it by fire, its head [standing]
on its legs and on its innards.
should be sacrificed whole. It is absurd to imagine that they should be roasted
whole, with heads and innards.
intense u-vashel m’vushal cannot refer to mere cooking by boiling.
Forbidding a specific way of cooking was pointless because eating was prohibited,
anyway. Rather, boiling down the victim refers to pagan mode of sacrifice. The
later prohibition of cooking a kid in his mother’s milk shows that the
sacrifice by boiling was a persistent pagan tradition (Ex34:26).
the priests greatly reduced the burden of rites. Only small portions of animals,
especially unhealthy fats, were sacrificed. With that understanding, the editors
adjusted the account of Pesach by adding Ex12:7-8.
And the nation took its dough before it would be baked. Given the situation,
leavening was irrelevant.
– chubby, thus translated as dough. Botz means swamp, thus viscous. Any
dough is viscous. Batzek means any dough, leavened or not.
And they roasted the dough which they took from Egypt, round rolled-out cakes,
because it was not baked for they were expelled from Egypt, and they would not
eat for they were terrified, and also they procured no victuals for themselves.
text allows that ugot matzot were either the pieces of dough, or the
result of their baking.
To read, They made unleavened cakes because the dough did not have enough time to leaven, defies common sense. Surely, many hours have passed after the Hebrews left their houses before they were able to eat. In the hot climate, natural fermenting is impractical because the dough would dry up. Pieces of old bread or beer foam are used to ferment the dough. Several hours of marching sufficed for fermentation. Besides, the dough was technically leavened after the introduction of the pieces of old bread. Shortage of time was irrelevant to leavening.
Hebrews af the dough. Etymologically, we expect af to be
events of Exodus unfolded in the following manner. People were told to kill the
sacrificial sheep and daub their blood on doors. The sheep were subsequently
sacrificed by fully burning them.
were not told to bake the bread, leavened or not. In the normal course, they had
some dough in their houses. Perhaps they routinely made the dough early morning
to bake it during the day.
had to leave in a hurry, and could not bake the bread in their houses. They
carried the dough.
festival reenacts the Exodus. The ritual breads, matzot, are round
rolled-out non-perforated cakes. They are not baked, but roasted on coals or
under the sun.