Gebrokts – Not Just a Half-Baked Idea

Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz

People are noticing that matzah meal, a longtime Pesach-baking staple, is appearing less and less in pre-packaged kosher-for-Passover products, usually substituted with potato starch.

Why is matzah meal vanishing from much of our Passover-baking fare?

True, wheat (gluten)-free products have certainly increased in popularity, but this alone does not appear to be the motivation for the change. It is primarily due to the hundreds-year-old stringency (chumra) of avoiding gebrokts (broken matzah, as in matzah meal) adopted in certain communities (particularly amongst Hasidim) that forbids the mixture of matzah with water over the Pesach holiday. Hence, a batter containing matzah meal and any liquid is avoided by the non-gebrokts adherents during Passover. Based on what is available on the Pesach supermarket shelves, the non-gebrokts-adherents are commanding an increasing market share.

Halacha and Gebrokts

The halacha, as formulated in the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch, clearly states that once matzah is baked, it can no longer become chametz and is permitted in any dish. The majority of Klal Yisrael conducts themselves accordingly – preparing matzah balls, matzah brei and a variety of baked goods containing matzah meal.

Nonetheless, some poskim raised the concern that in the haste to knead the dough within the eighteen-minute limit, some of the flour may not be fully mixed with the water and does not become matzah. Though this flour is baked, there is concern that if subjected to water afterwards, the chametz (leavening) process will then commence.

There are varying parameters applied to this stringency; some individuals are careful to avoid even the utensils that were used to prepare gebrokts dishes, while others are not. And some avoid mixing matzah with any liquid, while others are only careful to segregate Matzo from water.

Interestingly, one posek even voiced opposition to the minhag, arguing that the limitations imposed by its adherence would place unnecessary limitations on Pesach menus, thereby diminishing the enjoyment of the Yom Tov.

It is important to note that even those who keep this custom are careful to emphasize that it is only a stringency, and not a halachically-mandated requirement. For this reason, Hasidim and others following this minhag often partake of gebrokts on the eighth day of Pesach*, so as to symbolically join their brethren who have not adopted the chumra.

Whatever your minhag, may you enjoy all your kosher-for-Pesach cakes and eat them too!

*even though it is a Yom Tov day, it is rabbinically mandated and not biblically.