(Updated for 2023)
Chag haMatzot, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is celebrated during the first Biblical month, Aviv. The week-long celebration from 15 Aviv to 21 Aviv begins immediately following the Passover Seder; Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are inseparable.1 This year Chag haMatzot begins on Thursday, April 6, 2023, and goes through Wednesday, April 12, 2022. More accurately, these dates like all other Hebrew dates begin at sundown the prior evening.
The first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday, April 6) and the seventh day of Unleavened Bread (Wednesday, April 12) are annual rest days in which no regular work is to be done.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD‘S Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.
But I’m not Jewish
Neither am I. There are a number of places, though, where God tells us that his commandments are for both the native Israelite and for those who aren’t but who wish to follow him. When “Israel” left Egypt following the events of the first Passover, they were called a mixed multitude. Some were blood descendants of Jacob, and some were from various other ethnicities including Egyptians. They recognized that Yahweh, the God of Jacob, was the true god, and in following him they were counted among the Israelites.
In fact, the first mention of God’s commandments applying also to non-native Israelites is right there in the Passover instructions, just before the mixed multitude left Egypt.
The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Tanakh
This feast was originally commanded by God when the enslaved Israelites left Egypt.
Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. ‘On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. ‘You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.
Israel was commanded to eat pure unleavened bread (bread made without yeast) for seven days beginning with the Passover meal. Not only was the consumption of leavened bread forbidden during the feast, but even the presence of leaven in one’s house was prohibited (Exodus 13:7, Deuteronomy 16:4).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is one of the three “pilgrimage” festivals, those times when the Torah calls all men to come to the place God has designated to celebrate. The Bible indicates that the Israelites kept these Feasts at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.
Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD which he had built before the porch; and did so according to the daily rule, offering them up according to the commandment of Moses, for the sabbaths, the new moons and the three annual feasts–the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths.
(2 Chronicles 8:12-13)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread in the New Testament
The Feast or the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) only in the accounts of Yeshua’s final week. John does not use the term at all but does make several references to Passover. In Acts 20, Luke uses the days of Unleavened Bread to establish a timeline for Paul’s travels.
An interesting reference is found in Acts 12:
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
Herod is intending to put Peter to death after the Passover.2 He arrested Peter during the days of Unleavened Bread. It is quite clear that the term Passover is referring to the complete Feast of Unleavened Bread which begins with the Passover meal. Except for times when the context specifically means the Passover meal, most New Testament references can be understood this way.
Messianic Observance and Application
What is not found in the New Testament are any instructions for how to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nothing has been added; nothing has been taken away. All of our instructions for keeping this Feast are found in the Torah and we should follow them.
Abstaining from leavened bread should be a learning experience for followers of Yeshua. He warned his disciples to “watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). However, they did not understand his teaching and thought only of physical bread. We must be careful not to focus on only the physical removal of leaven from our homes during this time. Yeshua made it clear to them that the “leaven” they were to watch out for was bad teaching (Matthew 16:12).
You shall not eat anything leavened [chametz, Strong’s Hebrew word #H2556]; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.
Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) defines chametz as being leavened or sour, and while this is describing the fermenting process that makes bread rise – we often call it “sour dough” – a further definition in BDB is “to be cruel, oppress, be ruthless.” As we cease from consuming leaven it should also remind us to keep our attitudes and actions in check.
But it must also be noted that leaven is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Our obligation is to discern between good and bad. Seven weeks after the Feast of Unleavened Bread we are commanded to present two large, leavened loaves as we celebrate the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, Pentecost, Leviticus 23:17). Yeshua used leaven not only to illustrate the bad teaching of the religious leaders of his day, but also to demonstrate the growth of his kingdom.
He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread by:
- Not eating any leavened bread for seven days.
- Eating unleavened bread for seven days.
- Remembering that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).
Blessing for Eating Matzah
בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֺלָם
אֲשֶּׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֺתָיו
וֽצִוָּנוּ עַל בִּעוּר חמֵץ
Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha’olam
Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav
v’tzivanu al bi’ur chametz
Blessed are you, O Lord
Our God, King of the universe
Who has sanctified us by His commandments
And commanded us about removal of leaven
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
2/3 cup margarine, melted
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups matzah cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix margarine, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and salt. Mix in walnuts and chocolate chips.
Press into a greased 9×13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
from God’s Appointed Times by Barney Kasdan
There is an abundance of good recipes for unleavened bread. Here is a simple and easy unleavened bread recipe.
Additional Posts about the Feast of Unleavened Bread
Unless marked otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation
1My post When Is Passover explains why the Passover Seder is at the end of the day on the 14th just as this feast is beginning.