Thursday, March 27, 2008

To Brok or Not to Brok, That is The Question

I've seen more mini-wars started at this time of year over the gebrokts/non-gebrokts issue then almost anything else. It's perhaps time to try and smooth the waters before the turmoil begins.

Whether you eat gebrokts or non-gebrokts is not a question of halacha--it's a question of minhag. Those on one side of the debate claim halachic superiority over those on the other side. It just ain't so. That being said, there are some rabbanim who consider that non-gebrokts is the more stringent of the two minhagim. Why has this become such a big deal? Because the two minhagim can divide families at a time of year when families usually come together.

Let me use my own home as an example. I come from a family that did not use gebrokts. When I got married my husband's family did use gebrokts, although my mother in law's family did not brok. As long as I was not making Pesach in my own home this was not really an issue. I was allowed to eat in my in-laws house and my husband could certainly eat in my parent's house. And then I started making Pesach in my own home.

First of all, I had no idea, none, on how to cook anything that was gebrokts. Every recipe I had from my mother was for non-gebrokts. Next, my mother was widowed fairly young and was going to be coming to my house for Pesach. She doesn't brok so what was I going to do? Fortunately for me my husband hates matza kneidlach and matza brei and not eating gebrokts was going to be no problem for him. We changed the minhag in our home to non-gebrokts and I was a happy cook and my mom and siblings could eat in my house.

One of my husband's brothers found himself in a similar situation. He married a twin, and the other twin married someone who does not brok, and for the twins not to be separated when it came to Pesach, my brother in law also changed his minhag to non-gebroks. On my side, my baby sister married someone whose minhag is to brok. All this means that we siblings cannot eat in all of our houses over Pesach.

It's no big deal for our two families but I know that it has caused WWIII in some other families. Back when I was very young a friend broke her shidduch when it finally dawned on her that she would never be able to spend Pesach in her parent's home again, as they eat gebrokts and her then choson did not. I know machatonim who aren't on very good terms because the children "unfairly" can spend Pesach with one set and not the other. I've seen siblings who accuse other of their siblings of being "holier than thou" because of the gebrokts issue.

This is one area where approaching daas Torah could be helpful, as long as you realize that different rabbanim are possibly going to hold different ways. One couple with this gebrokts/non-gebrokts problem was told that in the house was not the same as out of the house; they could have their own home be non-gebrokts but that did not mean that they could not eat gebrokts outside of their home. Our rav paskened differently. He said that we could change our minhag but then that had to hold for all places. In particular he mentioned that for our children, their minhag would be what we hold in our home.

Please, at this time of year when there is already stress in abundance, could we not add more? If you brok, that's fine. If you don't brok, that's also fine. Could we not take personally that someone may or may not eat in our homes because of our minhag? It's only one week out of the entire year. Chill out folks!


BrooklynWolf said...

Interestingly, for us, g'brokts has developed a new "minhag" for us.

We eat g'brokts over Pesach. Good friends of ours, however, do not. As a result, it has become our annual custom to have these good friends over to our house every year on the last day of Pesach.

The Wolf

SaraK said...

Why did you have to change your minhag? Why couldn't you just not cook gebroks as a choice?

I never heard of someone who married a guy who doesn't eat gebroks not eating in her parent's [gebroks] home on Pesach. What a crazy thing! Who told her that? My family does not eat gebroks but we eat in the homes of our family members who do - we just do not eat anything that is actual gebroks.

I have never heard of a shidduch breaking off because of a differing minhag - that seems inane to me and I cannot believe Daas Torah would approve.

G said...

Why is it that pro will have to change to make life easier for a non but it does not seem to have to work the other way?

--sorry, couldn't help myself

ProfK said...

Sara K,
I could point out dozens of couples to you in my neighborhood alone who do not eat anything at all in homes where the minhag is gebrokts when they hold the opposite. Even when we were younger many of the young married women made Pesach in their own homes and invited their parents simply to avoid the problem. And yes, Daas Torah was involved.

There is a Yiddish saying:"Iber a katz iz a shidduch tzurick gegangen." Over a cat a shidduch went back. There are far stranger reasons to break off a shidduch (How about that the choson was promised a car and when the girl's father went to buy a used car instead of new, the boy's parents began yelling that they weren't giving a used boy and they wouldn't accept a used car. And yes, the shidduch went back). And no, she did not break off without speaking to her shul rav. He advised her that going into a marriage already unhappy and resentful, especially about family differences, was not a good predicator for a successful marriage.

We changed the minhag because we believe, and our rav concurred, that either you have minhag A or you have minhag B. You don't follow some things for minhag A while following some things for minhag B. It was also a question of chinuch for our children. They had no confusion growing up because there were no exceptions to the minhag. They all know how and why the minhag was changed but they also know that they eat non-gebrokts in the house and outside of the house because that is their father's minhag.

If your rav holds differently then of course you follow your own rav. I did mention that different rabbanim were likely to paskin differently.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is. My three brothers eat gebroks and my sister and I don't. So they eat by me and I don't eat by them? No one makes a fuss about it. Every two years its my and my sister's turn to be with our parents and they come to us. Like Profk our rabbi holds that you don't make exceptions for the minhag. It's either all or nothing. If it works for me and it works for profk then what's the problem?

G said...

they also know that they eat non-gebrokts in the house and outside of the house because that is their father's minhag.
--------, not really.

If it works for me and it works for profk then what's the problem?
--It works for you bec you force others to behave differently w/o offering to do the same in return.

--It may not be a big deal but let's call a spade a spade.

ProfK said...

My husband was matir neder, undertook a new minhag and that became his minhag. He has been observing this minhag for a lot longer then he observed the first minhag. And to complicate things just a tad further, his father may have eaten gebrokts but his father's father did not.

No one is being forced to do anything that they don't want to do. It is all strictly a matter of personal choice. I have not told my sister that she must change her minhag to accomodate my wishes. By the same token, she can't tell me to change my minhag to accomodate her wishes. Yes, it would be nice to spend Pesach together again. Yes, it would be nice for my mom to have a seder with my sister. We are all grown ups and know that that is not going to happen. We accept it without rancor. This is so not a case of "If you loved me you would prove it by doing X."

Anonymous said...

We use gebroks in our house and I don't see how anyone who doesn't could possibly eat just about anything I have in the house, except for a piece of fruit or a plain raw vegetable. I certainly don't get insulted about people not eating by me. They are not questioning my kashrus. We just have different minhagim.

Anonymous said...

The brok/ don't brok issue is just one more example of how Jewish practices get argued about and everyone thinks they are right and the other person is wrong. There is not right and wrong here just different customs. G, if you know that someone uses only chalav yisroel and you use chalav staam and so they won't eat in your house do you also say they are forcing you to accomodate them? Or do you just say we practice differently?

Anonymous said...

My parent's minhag is to brok and basically I end up not eating most of what gets cooked. Do you have any idea of what a week eating matzah and ground up matza meal can do to your internal plumbing?!

ProfK said...

You might consider putting in a supply of prunes and dried fruits for Pesach. And keep away from bittersweet chocolate and items made with cocoa--they can also cause the same problem.

If someone had told me 40 years ago that some day I would be giving "plumbing" advice on something called the Internet I would have seriously considered having them committed. And yet here I am. "Az muh leibt derleibtmin"--If you live you live through everything.

Anonymous said...

It is not just the brok, not brok issue that keeps people from eating by others over Pesach. There are dozens of other ones. Do you use garlic on Pesach? Someone is not going to eat in your house? Do you use hechsher A? Someone is not going to eat in your house. Do you use vegetables that can't be peeled? Someone is not going to eat in your house. My dad always says that Pesach is a holiday that people don't "mish" together because who does what when is just too complicated to keep track of.

ProfK said...

You're right Dan. Gebrokts is only part of it. We have friends where he was raised Washington Heights Breuers who live in the neighborhood. They eat no prepared products of any kind that are not on Breuer's permitted list. They stick to their family over Pesach, although they have lots of company the rest of the year. No biggy deal to any of the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I come from a Sefardi family and I married a man who is ashkenazi. I haven't been to my parents ever in my married life for Pesach. I wouldn't ask them to give up their way of doing things to come to me--why should they? How can they? And the family and home I have made with my husband are different from them but so what? We celebrate other chagim together. Can't understand why people get so angry about this issue.

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody could figure out how to freeze all of us from right after Purim until rosh chodosh after Pesach so we could avoid all the looking in everybody elses pots that we do? When someone asks me whether I brok or don't brok I always wonder why. What's it to them?

Looking Forward said...

profk, usualy I agree with you pretty much, but here I have to sharply dissagree.

There is a major prohabition against "casting aspersions against one's forefathers" (not to exclude one's mothers).

And nomatter what your excuse, it is just that, an unjustifiable excuse. Minhagim do NOT trump halacha like that. Nomatter what the minhag. I personaly don't eat gebrochts, but heaven forfend I should humiliate my parents (and any self respecting parent would be humiliated, baring certain minimal provisions) for any reason.

Yes you have a minhag, so do I, and so what of it? who cares? respeciting your parents and not humiliating them is an issur deroaisa, and a child who humiliates his parents, if I'm not much mistaken, could in the good (or bad) old days be put to death for their crime. Its an issur missah.

Thats not to say that you should not observe this minhag outside your home, on the contrary, you should strive to keep to it as much as possible, but in your parents home you eat, because otherwise would be to say, quite frankly "you're not doing it good enough" which, unless they are truly defying halacha (such as mixing meat and milk) its an issur midoraisa, and possibly an issur misah.

Outside of their home keep to your chumrahs, but in their home, you keep to their standards, whatever they are. (also barring major differences, like ashkenazi and sefardi.)

and it is humiliating to insist that your parents come to you instaed of you to them. its just not the derech.

ProfK said...

There is no halacha, none, that says that married children are required to go home to their parents for any reason once they are married--not for a shabbos, not for a yom tov, not for any reason. They owe their parents derech eretz; the definition of that term is not "screw your minhagim you have to go home to your parents and follow their minhagim." Sometimes it is distance that separates the children from the parents, sometimes it is time constraints, sometimes it is strained relationships and yes, sometimes it is religious practices. None of my friends who have divided practices have humiliated their parents in not spending Pesach in those parent's homes. Those parents are frequent visitors in our community, something that would not happen had humiliation been involved. In my own home my husband's father was more than maskim to the change in minhag in our house. He recognized a greater issue--that of an almoneh--my mom--and what needed to be done for her.
Re"it is humiliating to insist that your parents come to you instaed of you to them. its just not the derech." Wait until you are married a while before you try and make this statement. It becomes easier, lots easier for mom and dad to travel to a child then for children with multiple children of their own to travel to their parents. It's lots harder to make Pesach and find sleeping space for a large olam then it is to do the same for only two people. And parents, particularly mothers, get to the point, many of them, where making Pesach for a huge group is simply too much for them. They enjoy being guests for a change, although many a mom has worked in her daughter's or daughter in law's kitchen.

One friend with a daughter and 7 children in Israel travels to them every other Pesach. The expense of bringing 9 people here is just prohibitive. She also has two children living in the same community, both with large families. She has no room in her house for that many people. By going to the children she can see both of her children and all of her eineklach over yom tov. With another couple both the mom and dad are accountants and this time of the year is crazy for them. The mother managed when the children were unmarried by staying up all night for weeks. Now the children practice real derech eretz by helping out their parents and making yom tov.

But perhaps the issue that people seem to be missing here is that we didn't arbitrarily decide one morning to change minhagim. We spoke to our rav. That being the case, no one has the right to point fingers and say we were wrong or are wrong. Or is it perhaps okay to say the equivalent of "your rabbi sucks in advising you?" It doesn't have to be the daas Torah you want to follow, but it is daas Torah nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Well you did start out by saying--I've seen more mini-wars started at this time of year over the gebrokts/non-gebrokts issue then almost anything else. I wasn't sure I really believed that to be true until I started reading some of the comments. Maybe there are some cases where parents and children have a problem with different minhagim followed by them. I don't see it in my community.

Whatever happened to live and let live?

Anonymous said...

My father's rav paskins one way about the minhag of gebroks. My father in law's rav paskins another way. My husband's rav paskins still a different way. Each of my son in law's ravs also paskin differently. Either we hold by the rav we go to to paskin or we don't but you can't pick and choose at your convenience. Fortunately all the kids are still alternating coming home to us--we don't brok--and we don't have to deal yet with what will happen if we start to go to the children for yom tov.

Anonymous said...

Making Pesach is like that old joke that's been around for ever. A man was marooned on an island. When he was finally rescued the rescuers noticed that he had built three buildings. The first one was his home. The second one was his shul. And the third one? That was the shul he didn't go to. Substitute minhag for shul and it's the same idea. When it comes to Pesach there are hundreds of combinations of minhagim out there and nobody should get insulted about who won't or will eat by them.
It's our first year in our own house and both sets of parents are coming to us this Pesach along with 5 unmarried siblings. Both my father and my father in law were unbelievably great and both told me that in my house I am the baal habais and how I decide the yom tov will go is how it will go. It's going to be a little bit of everybody's minhagim. And bothmothers have already voluntteered to help cook in our house. Things can work out if you want them to.

Anonymous said...

People get so caught up in the idea of minhag k'din that they forget that it is minhag yisroel k'din, and not every minhag qualifies for that. Our Rav holds like Yoni commented, that what you hold is in your own home but you go to parents even if their minhag is different. That said, my sister's rabbi told them no, the minhag holds in and out of the house. I wonder if you can decide to hold both depending on the situation any year?

yingerman said...

Hey people pesach is just 7-8 days get a grip!
If you have to, you could live on just bananas for a week!
So gebrockts, mishing, peeling, machine matza VS hand shmura, take out, hechshayrim is all minute details that dont really change what pesach is about.