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What is Gebrokts and what's it got to do with not eating Matzah Balls?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Question:

Is it true that some people do not eat Matzah Ball Soup on Passover?

Thanks,
Musthaveit

Answer:

While Matzah Ball Soup is a Passover favorite, and permissible according to Jewish law, there are many who have a custom not to eat it on Passover. As a matter of fact, they don’t eat Matzah brye, Matzah Pizza, or Chocolate covered Matzah either. These people simply don’t eat Gebrokts.

Simply put Gebrokts (Yiddish), or Matzah Shruya (Hebrew), means Matzah that comes in contact with water or with food that was prepared with water. There is a pretty substantial market of non-Gebrokts eaters and you may see product labels or hotel ads that state "non-Gebrokts".

The premise of the non-Gebrokts movement is a Jewish custom, not an actual law. Here’s what it’s all about:

The determining factor between leavened bread (Chametz) and unleavened bread (Matzah) is the amount of time the flour and water sit together before being baked. If the flour is in contact with water for too long (more than 18 minutes) it causes the dough to ferment and rise. That results in Chametz.

There is, however, a possibility that the Matzah was not completely baked and an unbaked flake or two of flour that will come in contact with water will ferment.
Once the product is fully baked the flour can no longer ferment; one may therefore mix Matzah, Matzah meal, or any other finished Matzah product with water.

There is, however, a possibility that the Matzah was not completely baked and an unbaked flake or two of flour that will come in contact with water will ferment. The possibility of this is extremely slim, slimmer perhaps than the Matzah itself, but it remains a possibility.

Non-Gebrokts adherers are concerned about that possibility and refrain from some of the famous Passover delicacies in order to preserve the unleavened status of their Matzah at all costs.

The sages say: if one is careful not to eat any Chametz on Passover G-d will make sure he doesn’t (accidentally) sin all year.

This statement underscores the importance of avoiding leavened products on Passover, and explains why many people figure a Gebrokts-free Passover is not a bad insurance price for a sin-free year.

(See "What is the spiritual difference between Chametz and Matzah?" for a deeper mystical reason for perserving the unleavened status of Matzah at all costs).

To illustrate that this is merely a custom and no law is broken if you eat Gebrokts, many non-Gebrokts eaters will eat Gebrokts on the last day of Passover.

(See "Why is Chometz only forbidden on Passover" for a deeper understanding why one may eat Gebrokts after the first seven days of Passover have elapsed).


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Chametz
Any leavened product which is produced from wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. This includes bread, cake, cereals, crackers, biscuits, yeast, pasta and whisky. It is forbidden for a Jew to possess or consume Chametz throughout Passover.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Yiddish
Language closely related to German commonly spoken by European Jews.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.