Question: Now that we are doing our pre-Passover shopping, I notice that in many of the Kosher sections of the supermarket, there are packaged products marked “non-gebrockts.” Perusing the travel pages of The Jewish Press, I also noticed that many of the caterers at the Passover hotels advertise that they are “non-gebrockts.” Could you please throw some light on this current trend?
Answer: “Gebrockts” refers to matzah or matzah products that have been soaked or cooked in water. Some people will not consume such products on Passover, due to an apprehension of chametz – the fear that fermentation might have taken place. Others are more lenient as they consider this a very remote possibility. Since there are now many who will not purchase products that are gebrockts, or patronize establishments that feature “gebrockts” on the menu, more and more manufacturers and establishments have taken note of this lucrative market.
We had discussed this topic a number of years ago, but then it was a husband who was asking whose custom should take precedence if the background of a husband and that of a wife differ regarding gebrockts.
We shall first deal with the question of that couple – as to whose custom takes precedence – since this is very relevant to any discussion, whether it relates to what products to buy or where to book a Passover vacation. We shall then discuss your question in greater detail.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein rendered a decision on a similar question (Iggrot Moshe, Orach Chayyim 1:148): A husband and wife originating from different countries observe different minhagim, some more stringent and some more lenient. The couple now resides in New York, which is described as a city that does not have a single, established set of customs (lit. “it contains two batei din”) and where customs are divided, so that no one set of customs may be viewed as “the local custom.”
The question was whose customs this couple should follow. Should each keep their previous customs? Should both, perhaps, adopt only the more stringent rules of each country of origin? Should one of them entirely follow the other’s customs?
Rabbi Feinstein cites Rabbi Yosef Caro (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 214:2), who rules that one who leaves his city of residence with no intention to return follows the minhagim prevalent in his adopted city, whether the new customs are more stringent or more lenient than those in his former home.
This ruling is based on the Gemara’s statement (Chullin 18b; 110a): A person arriving in a different town must follow the restrictions of both his hometown and those of the new place. The Gemara clarifies that the above applies only in the event the traveler wishes to return to his hometown; but if the person intends to become a resident in the new place, he follows all the customs of his new place of residence, be they stringent or lenient.
Rabbi Feinstein points out that we compare marriage to the case of one who adopts a new city of residence, since a woman moves into her husband’s domicile. The rule is that she accepts her husband’s customs in other matters as well. For example, a woman whose father is an Israelite – as opposed to a kohen or a levi – may not partake of terumah. However, should she marry a kohen, she may eat what was previously forbidden to her.
Rabbi Feinstein cites many additional cases showing how a woman’s acceptance of the customs her husband has been following all along is the best example of “moving into a new city.”
In answer to your question regarding whose customs are to be followed on Passover, it is obvious that the husband’s minhagim will become the customs of the new household, regardless of stringencies or leniencies.
We will now address the concept of gebrockts, which is defined as matzah that has been soaked and/or cooked in a liquid.
Some people prohibit the use of this matzah since it is matzah sheruya, which Rambam discusses in Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah (5:3). Rambam notes that “[on Passover] one may not cook wheat grains in water to make grits, nor [wheat] flour to make pancakes. Should one do so, it is considered absolute chametz (chametz gamur), which would be biblically prohibited in the event any grains split during cooking. One may not roast [matzah] dough in oil in a frying pan, but one may cook the [matzah] dough and the roasted flour. If the water is scalding hot and one threw the flour into it, that is permitted because it is cooked immediately, before there is any chance for it to ferment [into chametz]. However, in Babylonia and in Spain, as well as in the Western lands, it has become customary to forbid this [casting flour into boiling water], for the water might not have been boiled to the proper degree.”
Rambam continues (ibid. 5:4): “It is permitted to cook corn (kitniyot) or flour in fruit juice. Dough that was kneaded with fruit juice and was then cooked in fruit juice or roasted in oil in a frying pan [in this case, oil is deemed similar to fruit juice] is permitted, as fruit juice does not cause fermentation.”
Rambam based his rulings on the Gemara (Pesachim 39b-40a), where we find a statement regarding something that is baked and does not become chametz. Rashi ad loc. explains that this applies even if it was cooked after it was baked. Additionally, oil with salt does not result in chametz but water with salt does. (Rashi clarifies that oil is in this case similar to fruit juice.)
Thus we see that when we use matzah meal (matzah ground into flour) for cooking and baking purposes, there surely is no problem according to the Gemara. In fact, the Gemara (Pesachim 41a) goes even further. R. Yosi states that one may discharge the obligation of eating matzah (at the Seder) with a matzah that has been soaked in water (gebrockts), but not with a matzah that has been soaked and cooked (even though it has been previously baked, as Rashi explains). While the latter is not chametz, it is no longer considered pat (lit. “bread”, i.e., matzah). [See Orach Chayyim 461:3 regarding elderly people unable to chew hard matzah, who may soak the matzah in cold water to soften it.]
Next week we will discuss the source of the custom not to eat gebrockts.
(To be continued)