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“Gebrokts”: Wetted Matzah

“Gebrokts”: Wetted Matzah

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Many communities, chassidic ones in particular, have the custom to refrain from eating gebrokts on the first seven days of Passover. Gebrokts is a Yiddish word that refers to matzah that has come in contact with water. It literally means “broken,” and it has come to mean “wet matzah” because matzah is usually ground or broken up into crumbs before it is mixed with water.

Those who refrain from eating gebrokts on Passover do so for fear that during the baking process there may have been a minute amount of flour that did not get kneaded properly into the dough. Upon contact with water, that flour would become chametz.

The custom of not eating gebrokts gained prominence around the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, people began to bake matzahs much faster than halachically mandated, in order to be absolutely sure that the dough had no chance to rise before being baked. The flip side of this stringency is that the matzah we eat today is not as well kneaded as matzah used to be, and it is very possible that it contains pockets of flour.1

The stringency of not eating gebrokts applies to matzah and water only—not to matzah and pure fruit juices or other liquids,2 which don’t cause flour to become chametz.

Those who are careful with gebrokts don’t eat matzah balls, matzah brei, or matzah anything; in short, they do not cook with matzah at all. Also, when there is matzah on the table, they are very careful to keep it covered and away from any food that may have water in it. Drinks, soups, and vegetables that have been washed and not thoroughly dried, are all kept far away from the matzah.

A situation in which this stringency comes into play is during the Korech step of the Seder. This step requires that we take maror—lettuce and horseradish—and put it between two pieces of matzah to make a sandwich. Because the lettuce will actually be touching the matzah, it must be absolutely dry. Many families spend much time carefully washing the lettuce and then very meticulously drying it in preparation for the Seder.

On the eighth day of Passover, which exists only outside the Land of Israel, the gebrokts stringency doesn’t apply, and all feast on matzah balls and matzah brei, and dip their matzah into soups and salads. In fact, many have the custom to try to eat their matzah with as many liquids and wet foods as possible.3

The simple reason for this is that the celebration of the eighth day is of rabbinic origin.

But there is also a spiritual reason given for eating gebrokts on the eighth day:

The last day of Passover is connected with the future redemption (see Remembering the Future), a time when no evil will befall us. We reflect this reality by going out of our way to eat gebrokts on this day, without fear that the matzah may become chametz.4

Alternatively, Passover celebrates the Exodus, a time when we were (and are) spiritually immature. At this time, we need to be constantly on guard for the slightest bit of chametz (i.e., pride and ego), lest we be adversely affected. Fifty days after Passover, and after the seven weeks of character refinement we undergo with the Omer counting, we have spiritually matured and are fully immunized against the harmful side effects of chametz. We are then ready as a nation to receive the Torah. Thus, on the holiday of Shavuot, one of the communal offerings brought in the Temple was specifically made of chametz. (For further elaboration on this idea, see Chametz: What Would Your Psychologist Say?)

On the last day of Passover, we have already completed the first of the seven weeks of the counting of the Omer. We are not quite ready for chametz, but we are a bit more secure. For this reason we eat our matzah with liquid, without fear.5

For a lengthier treatment of the spiritual implications of gebrokts on the last day of Passover, see A Speck of Flour.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Responsa of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, no. 6.

2.

Provided that one can be absolutely positive that the liquid contains no water whatsoever. Practically, this applies to wines or juices squeezed or produced in-house.

3.

All these gebrokts foods should be prepared after nightfall of the last night of Passover (unless that day is Shabbat, in which case it would be permitted to prepare the matzah balls or other gebrokts foods on Friday, provided that one has made an eruv tavshilin before the holiday).

4.

Talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, Acharon Shel Pesach 5744.

5.

Talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach 5727.

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Discussion (8)
April 24, 2011
Re: Lettuce and Matzoh
The Juice of fruits or vegetables do not cause Matzah to become Chametz as long as it is pure Juice. Therefore, one need not be stringent about gebrokts (which is itself a stringency) when it is a question of pure fruit or vegetable juice and Matzah (see Responsa from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi 6).
Yehuda Shurpin for chabad.org
April 18, 2011
Lettuce and Matzoh
But, when you bite into the lettuce, do you not release the water in the lettuce, which is 90 water? So would the matzo not turn gebrokts on the way to your stomach?
Anonymous
New York, NY
April 1, 2010
Re: matza pizza or other toppings
No, it would not be considered gebrochts, provided that there wasn't any water mixed into any of the toppings.
Yehuda Shurpin for chabad.org
April 1, 2010
matza pizza or other toppings
If you have tomato sauce and cheese on top of matza would it be considered gebrochts? (since it's not actually water that's on top of the matza) Furthermore, if someone has cream cheese, peanut butter, or other toppings that are not as "watery" as jelly (or some other topping that is a lot more liquid then others) would it be considered gebrochts?
Anonymous
toronto, ON
March 29, 2010
Re: Matzah Brei
That is true, provided that one can be absolutely sure that these other liquids do not contain any water whatsoever. If these other liquids were to contain even a drop of water, then for gebroktz purposes it would be even worse than plain water, as it is more prone to rise. So yes, in theory one would be able to make that Matzah Brei.
Yehuda Shurpin for chabad.org
chabadnashoba.org
March 29, 2010
Matzah Brei
According to what was said about only water (but not other "pure" liquids) being a problem - if you were to make matzah brei only with eggs and matzah (and maybe some other relatively dry items, like onions), then it wouldn't create "gebroktz". This would seem to be true if you added a little milk to the eggs. Cheese would even be a permissible (and probably quite tasty) addition to egg-based matzah brei.

You also could ostensibly use eggs - and maybe a little schmaltz (but no milk) - to make matzah balls to be served with chicken soup, as is most customary)

I imagine that both of these dishes would be great when made with shmurah matzah! I've never tried this, because I always thought that *any* liquid was not to be mixed with matzah during Pesach per Chabad minhag.
David Levy
Westford, MA
chabadnashoba.org
March 28, 2010
Back in the day
Back in the day the ancient sages would have been more meticulous with the baking of their matzas, pushing it closer to 18 minutes and thus there would have been less of a concern for traces of unbaked flour that give rise to the stirngency of the gebrokt minhag.

Further, fat/ juices from lamb is not water and thus is not an issue.

That's from a Halachic Perspective.

From a spiritual one, looking at the general yeridas hadoros or spiritual decline of the generations, we're not on the same lofty spiritual rung as those who lived at the time of the Temple. As such we must take the extra precautions to prevent any Chametz from arrising whatsoever.

A kosher and Freilacha Pesach no matter what your minhag is. :-)
Anonymous
Melbourne, Australia
March 25, 2010
korech
I doubt the ancient sages meticulously dried their maror. And during the time of the Temple, I'm sure the pesach offering that also went in the korech was not dry.
Chana
Raleigh
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