May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Pesach cakes have almost become completely Gebrokts-free. They have also become quite expensive. Indeed, one shopper at a supermarket in the Five Towns recently commented, “I have become gebroke from Gebrokts!”

In many families, matzah brei is a favorite. In others, it brings shudders down the spine (well, almost). The issue, of course, is Gebrokts..

 

What Is It?

What is Gebrokts all about and where did it come from?

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 461:4) writes that one fulfills the mitzvah of matzah with matzah shruyah, Gebrokts, soaked matzah—as long as the matzah remains intact and whole. This is based upon the Gemara itself (Psachim 41a), which states the very same law. What then is the source for the custom of avoiding Gebrokts, dipped or wet matzah?

Almost without exception, the custom to refrain from Gebrokts has spread throughout the Chasidic world and even among others. What are some of the halachos of this minhag? How did this minhag develop? In this article, we will address some pertinent halachos as well as attempt to trace the origin of this stringency.

 

Women and Gebrokts

A woman should follow the custom of her husband. Thus, if while she was single she did not eat Gebrokts, but married someone whose custom is to eat it, she may eat Gebrokts on Pesach—even without doing hataras nedarim. This is the view of Rav Moshe Feinstein (IM Vol. I #158), Dayan Weiss (Vol. IV #83) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 4:20).

 

Various Leniencies

Rav Elyashiv, zt”l was asked a question by a non-Gebrokts eater: “My father is sick, is it better for him to eat Gebrokts or kitniyos?”

He answered (Ashrei HaIsh 60:20) that it is better to eat Gebrokts.

Some who have the minhag to avoid Gebrokts do allow semi-solids on the matzah, such as butter. Others forbid this as well (See Piskei Teshuvos 458, note 23).

Some allow children to eat Gebrokts, while they themselves avoid it.

 

Earliest References

The first reference this author could find that directly mentions the minhag of avoiding a form of Gebrokts is the Olas Shabbos (453:3) who discusses a halacha in the Bach that matzahs should be baked prior to Pesach and not during Pesach. Why is this so? Chometz is only batel (nullified) before Pesach and not during Pesach. The Olas Shabbos adds, “And one who is concerned for this stringency should not cook a baked matzah on Pesach either, for how is it different from baking?” In other words, the Olas Shabbos is concerned that the chametz that was mixed into the matzah but became nullified before Pesach is now reawakened on Pesach itself.

The Magen Avrohom 458:1 cites the Olas Shabbos and asks a series of questions about it, differentiating between the Bach’s case and the scenario described by the Olas Shabbos. Regardless, the concern of the Olas Shabbos deals with the Gebrokts of actual cooking. Simply soaking the matzah would not seem to be a concern of the Olas Shabbos, because it is not reawakened yet through any process.

The Knesses HaGedolah, cited by the Magen Avrohom (OC 473), tells us to avoid using it as a fish coating because of a woman who once confused it with flour. The Pri Chadash in 461:2 disagrees and writes, “I say that this is all permitted and we cannot make our own enactments, and who cares if one woman made a mistake in Halacha?” The Shaarei Teshuva in OC 460:2, after explaining that it is technically permitted, writes, “Nonetheless, one who wishes to sanctify himself with that which is permitted, we do not stop him.”

The next time we see a concern for Gebrokts in print is in the response of Rabbi Shniur Zalman of Liadi, the Graz or the Baal HaTanya. The concern he raises is that perhaps the matzah was not kneaded sufficiently, and some unbaked flour remains on the matzah. The soaking will thus bring about a “Chometzization” process.

The observant reader will note that this is a different concern than that mentioned by the Olas Shabbos. The Machtzis HaShekel voices the same concern in 458:1 about the unbaked flour. The Aishel Avrohom (Botshatch 447:4) is similarly concerned.

 

Hints in the Gemara

If we wish to find hints to the common practice of avoiding some form of Gebrokts, we can. The Gemara in Pesachim (40b) discusses an item called Chassissi which the workers of the house of the Raish Galusa would make. There were Amoraim, the Gemara indicates, who were uncomfortable with eating it, however. Although Rabbi Yitzchok quoted in Tosfos understands it to be a lentil paste, the Rif describes it as matzah that was rolled and cooked.

There are also two fascinating quotes of the Raavan (Psachim 73b). Firstly, he writes that one should avoid soaked matzah in soup on the first night of Pesach because this takes away the taste of matzah itself. This is actually a proof to the notion that on the rest of Pesach one can eat Gebrokts. However, he also writes that one should avoid making matzah balls because people may come to do it with flour itself and cook it. The Be’er Heitev OC 460 cites the Knesses HaGedolah to this effect as well.

The Ravya (Psachim 475) also explains that some people do not make kneidlach out of a concern that others may mix this up by doing it with flour and water. He describes this stringency as a chumrah of a Baal Nefesh.

The Maharashdam (responsa OC #26) describes Yupkes, a matzah meal-based item, and explains that a Baal Nefesh should avoid it.

How does it fit into common practice? For the Korech section of the Pesach Seder, people who avoid Gebrokts just dip the Maror in the Charoses, not the matzah (See Mishna Brurah 475:19). Is it muktza for those who do not eat it? The Chazon Ish (Shabbos 49:15) rules that cooking kneidlach from Yom Tov to Shabbos may be muktza if one’s minhag is that Gebrokts are forbidden. If one is merely stringent to avoid it, then it is permitted.

 

Forbidding Avoiding Gebrokts

There are also opinions that it is forbidden to be stringent. The Sheilas Yaavetz (Vol. II #65) cites his father, the Chacham Tzvi, that it is wrong to disallow the Simchas Yom Tov with far-fetched stringencies!

 

When Did It Start?

So when did the Chasidim start this custom? Reb Mendel of Vitebsk is cited by many of the early Chasidim as attributing it to the Maggid of Mezrich and that, believe it or not, the Baal Shem Tov did eat kneidlach!

The Chasam Sofer (Responsa OC 138) also used to consume Gebrokts—especially with soup kneidlach. Rumor has it that some members of the Chasam Sofer’s family even have the recipe for kneidlach that his wife used.

 

Back to Pesach Cakes

It is also interesting to note that the change in our Pesach cakes adversely affects Sephardic Jews and those who follow the customs of the Vilna Gaon. How so? When there is no mezonos (matzah meal) in what is baked, it is not subsumed under the leniency of Pas Palter–baker’s bread. It would be considered Bishul Akum for Sephardim and for followers of the Vilna Gaon. Since most of our bakeries have an aino yehudi (non-Jew) preparing the Pesach cake, the non-Gebrokts Pesach cakes would not be kosher for Sephardim.

 

Conclusions

In conclusion, Pesach allows us yet another opportunity to connect with our generations past, by strictly adhering to the Minhagim of our parents and grandparents. Focusing on this aspect of the Minhag will allow us to ever further our growth over this Yom Tov. A Gut Yom Tov!


The author can be reached at [email protected]

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