Okay, so for this first time that I can remember, in my entire life, we will not be having Matzo Balls in our chicken soup at the Seder. Let me explain to you the seriousness of this… it’s like an 11th plague has hit. Why you ask? Well, last year (around this time actually), my baby sister married an amazing, wonderful man, who comes from a likewise amazing, wonderful family. The downside to this obvious blessing? My new brother-in-law does not eat Gebrokts. What are/is Gebrokts? Gebrokts is a Yiddish word that refers to Matzo that has come in contact with water. It literally means “broken,” and it has come to mean “wet Matzo” because Matzo is usually ground or broken up into crumbs before it is mixed with water.
Those who refrain from eating Gebrokts (not everyone has this custom, it is mainly certain sects of Ashkenazi Jews, specifically what are known as Chassidim) on Passover do so for fear that during the baking process there may have been a minute amount of flour that did not get kneaded properly into the dough. Upon contact with water, that flour would become Chametz.
The custom of not eating Gebrokts gained prominence around the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, people began to bake Matzos much faster than mandated by the Rabbis, in order to be absolutely sure that the dough had no chance to rise before being baked. The flip side of this stringency is that the Matzo we eat today is not as well kneaded as Matzo used to be, and it is very possible that it contains pockets of flour.
Those who are careful with Gebrokts don’t eat Matzo balls, Matzo Brei (an egg and Matzo bake), or Matzo anything; in short, they do not cook with Matzo at all. Also, when there is Matzo on the table, they are very careful to keep it covered and away from any food that may have water in it. Drinks, soups, and vegetables that have been washed and not thoroughly dried, are all kept far away from the Matzo.
On the eighth day of Passover, which exists only outside the Land of Israel, the Gebrokts stringency doesn’t apply, and all feast on Matzo balls and Matzo Brei, and dip their Matzo into soups and salads. In fact, many have the custom to try to eat their Matzo with as many liquids and wet foods as possible. The simple reason for this is that the celebration of the eighth day is of rabbinic origin, rather than Biblical origin. Chabad, where I got the above information has a great article on the spiritual reasons for Gebrokts that I definitely suggest checking out! Click here to read it.
So, to sum this all up, since my mother, the hostess of our Seder, is kind and wonder cook, and doesn’t want to exclude people from parts of the meal, we will refraining from Matzo Balls this year, along with Matzo Farfel, Matzo Meal in various recipes… well, you get the idea. It’s a good thing my new brother-in-law is worth it!