Sharing Torah Insights

Is Honey Chametz?

Posted on ד׳ בניסן ה׳תש״ע (March 19, 2010) | in Pesach, Vayikra | by

MatzaAs Sefer Vayikra begins, we are all keenly aware that Pesach is approaching and the smell of cleaning products is in the air.  We have just completed Sefer Shmot with a month of Torah readings describing the construction of the Mishkan and now we begin to read about all the different Korbanot offered therein.

One of the categories of Korbanot is the Mincha offerings. These offerings are all different flour offerings, and just like on Pesach, chametz (leavening) is forbidden  in them. In describing the prohibition for having chametz in the Mincha, the Torah says:

כָּל-הַמִּנְחָה, אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָה–לֹא תֵעָשֶׂה, חָמֵץ: כִּי כָל-שְׂאֹר וְכָל-דְּבַשׁ, לֹא-תַקְטִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה.

Every Mincha offering that you bring before Hashem should not be chametz, because all leavening and all honey should not be burnt as a fire offering to Hashem

Yet, I have never seen honey on any of the “not Kosher for Pesach” lists. Why would the Torah use honey as an example of chametz, when we know from experience that it is allowed on Pesach?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says that in order to understand this verse, we need to understand what the difference in practice was in the Temple between leavening and honey, as well as what they are meant to represent.

First, the practical difference: When bringing a Mincha offering, chametz was forbidden both in the portion brought on the Mizbeach (altar) as well as the shirayim (left-overs) which were eaten by the Kohanim and the people. With the honey, however, they were permitted to put honey on the matza they ate, they just couldn’t put honey on the sacrificial dough.

Second, what the leavening and honey represent: As we know from the story of Pesach, Matza represents subjugation to another authority. When we were slaves in Egypt we were only allowed to eat the Bread of Affliction. Our eating of Matza in the Korbanot and on Pesach shows our appreciation to Hashem for having removed our yoke of servitude to the Egyptians – replacing it with the ability (and obligation) to serve the Divine. We show that we recognize that if not for the hand of Hashem אָנוּ וּבָנֵינוּ וּבְנֵי בָנֵינוּ מְשֻׁעְבָּדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרַיִם (we would all still be slave to Pharaoh in Egypt).

The honey, on the other hand, represents national sovereignty over the Land of Israel (as in “a land flowing with milk and honey”). Honey is a luxury, only acquired when one has a continuous presence in a land undisturbed by ravaging intruders. By refraining from sacrificing the honey, we acknowledge that our right to the excesses of the land is granted by the same mandate that took us out of Egypt. Only by properly serving Hashem do we retain the right to stay in the land and by choosing to burn the honey on the altar we would be showing that the goodness  is due to the work of our own hands.

With these explanations in mind, we can now understand why leavening is entirely forbidden, while honey is only forbidden on the Mizbeach. Hashem has blessed us with the Land of Israel and expects and desires us to benefit from the goodness it provides. We are supposed to enjoy the honey and use it to enhance our food. At the same time, we are supposed to remind ourselves when bringing those sacrifices where all that good comes from.

On the other hand, the leavening is teaching us to be constantly aware that Hashem did not free us from the slavery of Egypt to do whatever we want. We are here for a reason and must always be aware of our obligation to Hashem.

Note: Honey is NOT chametz and is allowed on Pesach – with a Kosher for Pesach certification.

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2 Responses to “Is Honey Chametz?”

  1. Jesse says:

    Chametz is considered to be the yetzer Harah and honey could be an Av tumah. Can we compare them?


    Liron Kopinsky Reply:

    Interesting… also, isn’t honey is one of the 7 liquids that can transfer Tumah?


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