Egg Matza and ‘Gebrokts’ on Pesach

‘Matza ashira’ and the sources for Ashkenazi and Sephardi customs * Today, cookies made from ‘matza ashira’ contain substances that might be considered like water, consequently there is disagreement among Sephardic poskim in regards to them * ‘Matza sheruya’ and the Hassidic custom not to eat it * Today, some Hasidim are lenient, because the process of baking matzos has changed and there is less room for concern * Milk produced before Pesach can be consumed, but milk of an animal owned by a Jew that ate chametz on Pesach should not be consumed * A further look at the joy of weddings: Tips on preventing older guests from being excluded from the dancing circles, and maintaining pleasant conversations without background music

Matza Ashira (“Egg Matza”)

Q: On Pesach, is one permitted to eat cookies made with ‘mei peirot‘ (“fruit juice”), or what is usually called ‘matza ashira‘ (“egg matza”)?

A: The chametz that the Torah forbids is comprised of flour and water. If flour was kneaded with fruit juice – even if the dough sits a full day and rises – it is not considered chametz since rising of this kind is different from the type forbidden by the Torah. The category of “fruit juice” (“mei peirot“) includes wine, honey, milk, oil, and egg, in addition to all juices squeezed from a fruit, like apple or berry juice. Since fruit juice does not cause dough to become chametz, one may knead, bake, and eat such dough on Pesach. Nevertheless, one would not fulfill the mitzva of matza on the first night of Pesach with it, because the Torah calls matza “lechem oni” (“poor man’s bread”), and matza made from fruit juice is “matza ashira (“rich matza” – colloquially known in English as “egg matza”), since it possesses more than the taste of just flour and water.

If a drop of water gets mixed in with the fruit juice, it can cause the dough to become chametz. Moreover, according to many poskim (Jewish law arbiters), the combination of water and fruit juice actually expedites the leavening process. Thus, in order to avoid such doubts, the Sages prohibited kneading dough with a mixture of fruit juice and water during Pesach (SA 462:1-3).

Ashkenazic Custom

The Ashkenazic custom is to avoid eating anything made of dough kneaded with fruit juice out of concern that water mixed with the fruit juice causes the dough to become chametz. Furthermore, it takes into account the opinion of Rashi, who disagrees with most Rishonim and maintains that fruit juice alone can cause something to become chametz on the rabbinic level. Although in principle it is possible to follow the lenient ruling of the vast majority of poskim, nevertheless the Ashkenazic custom is to be stringent, and this should not be altered.

Sephardic Custom

According to the Sephardic custom, one is permitted to prepare on Pesach cookies made with flour and ‘mei peirot’, but it is forbidden for water to be mixed-in, since such a mixture is liable to expedite the leavening process. Be-di’avad (a level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner), if water is mixed in, one should bake it immediately (SA 462:2).

In practice, cookies that get kosher-for-Pesach certification according to Sephardic custom are made on the basis of ‘mei peirot’ with care taken that water is not mixed-in, with other substances added instead. Those poskim who permit them to be eaten maintain that these substances are not considered like water. This is the psak of the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l, and the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Amar shlita. In contrast, our guide and mentor the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l ruled very stringently, out of fear that the din of the other substances was like water, and that the din of these leavening agents may be even severer than water, so that even if the cookies are made under special supervision, they would be considered chametz, even be-di’avad. Therefore, in practice, even according to Sephardic custom, it would be proper for all to take on the Ashkenazi custom, and avoid eating these cookies. However, someone who’s Rav muvhak (primary rabbi) rules leniently, is permitted to act likewise.

Matza Sheruya (Soaked Matza; “Gebrokts”)

Q: Is there room to be stringent and not eat ‘matza sheruya’, i.e. matzah, or matzah crumbs, soaked in water?

A: Once matza has been completely baked, the flour in it loses the capacity to become chametz, even if it is soaked in water for a long time. An indication that the matza is fully baked is that a crust has formed on its surface and that it breaks cleanly, with no threads of unbaked dough extending from it. Thus, it is permitted to soak matza in soup, and an elderly or sick person who cannot eat dry matza on the Seder night may soften matza by soaking it in water (SA 461:4). Likewise, if the matza was ground into flour, it is permitted to knead it with water; one need not worry about it becoming chametz because, as mentioned, once it has been thoroughly baked, it cannot (SA 463:3). Therefore, one may bake cakes from the five species of grain during Pesach, or cook various dishes – such as gefilte fish and matza balls – that contain matza meal.

The Stringency of Hasidim

Yet there are some who avoid soaking fully-baked matza in water, lest some of the flour was not kneaded properly and remained unbaked, and soaking the matza will cause the unbaked dough to become chametz. They likewise fear that some flour may have stuck to the matza after the baking process, and if the matza is soaked in water, this flour will become chametz. There is yet another reason to be strict about matza meal: an unlearned person might confuse matza meal with real flour and end up violating the prohibition of chametz on Pesach. Hasidim accept this stringency and refrain from eating matza that has been soaked, or what is termed in Yiddish, “gebrokts”.

Halakha Regarding Matzah Sheruya

Nearly all poskim, however, unanimously agree that one need not be stringent, since it can be assumed that the kneading was thorough, leaving no flour un-kneaded or un-baked. This is the custom of Sephardic and non-Hasidic Ashkenazic Jews. Today, even some Hasidic Jews are lenient because, due to the popular practice of baking thin matzot, there is no longer any concern that some of the flour was not properly baked. Likewise, there is no concern that flour may have gotten stuck to the matza, since matza bakeries are careful to separate the area where flour is handled from the area where the matza comes out of the oven. The Mishna Berura (458:4) states: “Although in principle there is no reason for concern about this, and it is permitted to eat soaked matza, one should not mock conscientious people who choose to be stringent.”

The Law Concerning Hasidic Families

In practice, many people of Hasidic descent no longer observe the stringency of “gebrokts”. This is because modern-day matzot are extremely thin and our ovens are very strong. If one’s father was lenient in this matter, one need not perform hatarat nedarim (the annulment of vows), even if he is from a Hasidic family. However, if one’s father was stringent, and he wants to be lenient, he should perform hatarat nedarim, and also make sure not to insult his father.

However, one who accepted the stringency (without saying “bli neder“) because he wanted to go beyond the letter of the law and now wishes to be lenient, should first perform hatarat nedarim.
One who was stringent because he thought that this is the halakha erred, and may switch to the lenient practice without performing hatarat nedarim (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:2). 

Milk from an Animal That Ate Chametz

Clearly, milk produced by a cow before Pesach does not contain chametz, for the chametz eaten by the cow was digested and completely transformed to the point that it is no longer considered chametz whatsoever. Therefore, on Pesach, one is permitted to consume milk, or meat, from an animal that ate chametz before Pesach.

But if the animal ate chametz on Pesach, some poskim rule stringently, arguing that since on Pesach itself it is forbidden to derive benefit from chametz, as long as chametz is a factor causing the production of the milk, the milk is forbidden. Other poskim are lenient, since no direct benefit is derived from the chametz (according to the rule: “zeh ve-zeh gorem“).

In practice, if an animal owned by a Jew was fed chametz in violation of halakha, one should act stringently and not drink its milk; if the animal is owned by a gentile, one is permitted to drink its milk. The same applies to eggs and meat (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:5-6).

Good Advice for Weddings

Following my column concerning the joy of weddings published three weeks ago, I received a reply with another good piece of advice:

“Rabbi, in the column on weddings you dealt with the careless dancing of young people at weddings, that when they are a bit too boisterous, they do not allow older people to participate in the dancing. Even at my not so-old age of thirty, I’ve seen this problem at weddings in which I was a relative of the bride, wishing to dance and rejoice with her, but was repeatedly flung from the dancing circle.

“As a bride, I was worried that this would happen at my wedding as well; therefore, I assigned the responsibility to seven of my closest friends. I asked them to make sure that anyone who wished to dance, would be able to enter the dance circle. Given that this was their task, they took it very seriously. As a result, throughout the entire wedding (as can be seen in the pictures), there was joyous dancing, with young and older guests alike, able to participate in the dancing. This is good advice for a bride who wants to enable all women participating in the wedding to dance, without having to worry about it during the wedding.”

Quieting the Band during the Meal

In the same column, I wrote an important piece of advice – to silence the band during the meal, because pleasurable conversation between the guests is extremely important. Indeed, our Sages have said: “Agra d’bei hilulei – millei” (Berachot 6 b), namely, the merit of attending a wedding lies in the words – i.e., the cheerful bustle of good and pleasing conversation spoken between the guests. However, when the band plays, it is impossible to carry on a relaxed conversation.

Before our daughter’s wedding, I asked that a pre-condition be made – that the band agree not to play during the meal, which they did. When I got to the wedding-hall, I was approached by the band’s manager, a pleasant, God-fearing and educated man, who said that, of course, they would do as requested, but that he felt it would be preferable to play background music. I refused. Nonetheless, he urged amiably, suggesting they would play soft background music, and that I could appoint someone to listen and if the music interfered, they would stop. I agreed to a compromise: during the first course of the meal, they would not play any music at all; during the main course, they would play background music, with one of our guests making sure they were not interfering. The problem was that during the main course, we were all so busy and elated, and although subconsciously we sensed disturbing noise, we had no idea it was the background music causing everyone shout or lean over and speak into the ear of the person sitting next to them.

In practice, during the first course, all guests at the table were able to talk to each other, while during the main course, guests had to raise their voice in order to be heard. True, not as loudly as at weddings where the band actually plays, or where background music is played at a moderate level, but still, it was not as pleasant as we had hoped. We asked some guests, and they said that it was much more pleasant during the first course, without being able to identify the source of the problem. Apparently, since in any case there was a lot of noise in the hall, in order for the background music to be heard, it had to be played quite loud, and thus, relaxed conversation was made impossible.

The lesson I learned for future weddings is not to concede to affable band managers, but rather, insist that there be no music during the wedding meal.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

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