What is leaven? Is leaven any fermented thing like grape juice?
Bread was a staple food in ancient Egypt as it is today; there were up to 15 kinds of bread in the Old Kingdom and nearly 40 in the New Kingdom and they were baked from wheat, barley or corn, in a number of shapes, from oval to round, twisted, concave and even in the form of animals like the crocodile which is traditionally believed to bring good luck and is still made by the Nubians.
In ancient Egypt, bread was mostly a thin sheet of dough similar to the “roqaq” or a thick loaf like the “shamsi”, the sun bread, which is still made in Upper Egypt. The ancient Egyptians would make the “shamsi” bread by leaving a ball to rise in the sun; however, like most bread baked during those times, it was hard and chewy. Early wheat strains were heated before threshing so that the husk could be removed but this process destroyed the gluten-forming proteins essentials to make a light-textured bread.
The ancient Egyptians developed a strain of wheat which could be threshed without preliminary heating, taking a huge step toward the improvement of bread. They also introduced leavening into their bread and, in the third millenium, began using yeast.
Rav Soloveitchik explained that Passover represents the struggle of the Jew to free himself of inclinations that are not in consonance with the Torah. Bi’ur chamtez, eradicating leavened grain product, symbolizes the elimination of tendencies that pull one away from the Will of God.
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