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Q & A: Gebrockts (Conclusion)

QUESTION: When I recently got married, I discovered that my wife has a different custom regarding Passover, namely, not eating matza and matza products that have been soaked or cooked in water, also known as the practice of ‘brocking’. What is this based on? Whose practice should prevail in our home?

Name Omitted By Request

ANSWER: Last week we began our discussion by noting the concept of the wife accepting her husband’s customs after marriage, whether they are more stringent or more lenient than
her former practices, just as an individual who moves to a new city accepts the prevalent customs in his new location. We also defined what constitutes matza sheruya, or gebrockts, and noted that the elderly who cannot handle hard matza may definitely use it.

This week we review some halachic opinions regarding the basis of this custom.

* * *

The Gaon R. Yosef Grossman, zt”l, in his Otzar Erchei HaYahadut (p. 297), explains: “‘Matza sheruya’ is matza that, after having been baked, is soaked or comes in contact with water in some other manner. Pious and practical men do not eat matza that is soaked in either water or soup. However, they are not as stringent regarding milk or fruit juice. In the diaspora, they are lenient in this regard on the eighth day of Passover; they do eat soaked matza – even those who are most scrupulous on the other days of Passover.”

R. Grossman continues, “This custom [of not eating matza sheruya] has no basis in halacha, as matza that has been baked cannot ferment, which would result in prohibited chametz; even so, Chassidim are meticulously careful not to eat matza sheruya, and they are also careful not to use any utensils that contained soaked matza.”

R. Grossman concludes, “One may not override customs that one’s fathers have embraced for many generations without nullification by a sage following a she’elat chacham.” (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 228:1.)

Similarly, the author of Likutei Maharich (p. 107) cites Derech Pikudecha by R. Tzvi Elimelech Spira (mitzvat lo ta’aseh 12), which states that all matters of stringency (chumrot) above and beyond the [halachic] requirement that one accepts upon oneself on Passover, do not have to be observed on the eighth day of Passover, because by keeping these stringencies the erroneous inference may be drawn that any leniency would result in chametz gamur, absolute chametz that is biblically forbidden. It is not proper to cast aspersions on a large segment of Israel by suggesting (even merely through one’s well-meaning actions) that they are careless in their observance of the prohibitions of chametz. Thus, many Tzaddikim, Admorim, Chassidim and other pious individuals have a custom to eat matza that is not shemura (i.e., matza made from wheat that was not under constant supervision from the time of the actual cutting of the wheat, which many people, including the above pious Jews, avoid during the first
seven days of Passover) on the eighth day. They do, of course, take care not to violate any prohibition of chametz on that day.

We do see some support for a halachic basis of the custom to avoid matza sheruya or gebrockts in the responsa of the Ba’al HaTanya, R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady. At the end of Vol. 4 of his Shulchan Aruch HaRav (responsum 6) he states: “I have seen at times matza that has on it bits of flour after it was baked, because the dough is hard and has not been properly kneaded. This could result in a biblical violation [if it comes into contact with water, providing a basis for the custom of the avoidance of eating soaked matza]…yet I would not come out against those of the general populace who are lenient in this matter, as they have upon whom to rely…”

Finally we quote from Nefesh HaRav by R. Hershel Schachter, shlita, Rosh Kollel of R.I.E.T.S. This sefer represents the views of his rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l. R. Schachter writes (p. 188): “Even though mitnagdim [as opposed to Chassidim] are not accustomed to refrain from eating gebrockts (matza sheruya) on Passover, the Beit Halevi [the Gaon R. Yitzhak Zeev Soloveichik] and after him his son, the Gaon R. Chaim Soloveichik, were both careful to refrain from eating gebrockts on the first day of Passover because of Rambam’s ruling [in Hilchot Chametz U'Matza] that one should not eat matza ashira on the first day of Passover, even when not eating it for the specific purpose of mitzvat matza at the Seder. Cooked matza is likened to matza ashira in this regard, and this chumra (stringency) is a tradition from R. Chaim of Volozhin.”

Thus, though we do find a halachic basis for stringency regarding gebrockts, every person should follow his family’s minhag, and in the merit of our diligent study and observance of His mitzvot, may Hashem bless us all with the ultimate redemption, speedily in our days.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

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