Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minhagim: Pesach (Part 1)

The custom is to use only shmura matza throughout Pesach.

* * * 

Similarly, only hand-made matza should be used. Women and children are also makpid about this.

In the "machine vs. hand-made" debate we find some of the greatest poskim on either side. The rabbanim of Galitzia were predominately opposed to the use of machine-made matzos. It is not entirely clear what the prevailing custom was among the masses in Ukraine, but in Hornostiepel they were makpid to use only hand-made matzos, as well as shmura (although the two concepts are entirely dependent of each other).

When the Rebbe speaks about this topic, he invariably mentions this story (I have heard it from the Rebbe's brother Reb Shiya as well): The Rebbe Reb Leibele appointed Rav Chaim Osterer to be the melamed of Reb Yaakov Yisroel. Once, Rav Chaim brought the young Reb Yaakov Yisroel to a matza factory that was under his supervision. Rav Chaim showed him all the machines and explained how they make matzos in the best possible way from a halachic standpoint, with all of the hidurim and chumros. Reb Yaakov Yisroel pointed to one area of the machine and asked what was inside. When they opened it up, they saw some dough that had become caught and all the matzos were brushing up against it as they moved along the conveyor-belt (rendering them all chometz). Rav Chaim said, "The absolute truth is that this is near impossible and I myself have checked this exact spot many times before and something like this never happened. It is probably because you are an eiynikel of the holy Divrei Chaim of Sanz (who was strongly opposed to machine-made matzos)."
Reb Elisha Gorlitzer, hy"d

Rav Benzion Twerski related the following: During the Holocaust, Reb Elisha Gorlitzer, a son-in-law of the Rebbe Reb Motele and grandson of the Divrei Chaim, ran to Russia and from there was sent to Siberia. It came to Pesach time and although there were machine matzos available, being a grandson of the Divrei Chaim, Reb Elisha did not want to eat them. He exclaimed, "If it has come to this, that I must eat machine-matzos on Pesach, what is my life worth?" and he wept bitterly all Erev Pesach. Reb Elisha spent Pesach in Heaven for he passed away that night (15th of Nisan) before the seder.

* * *
The Rebbe, shlit"a, is not makpid to only eat razaveh matzos.

In Ukraine, it seems that there was a common custom to use razaveh matzos (whole-wheat matzos). This minhag is mentioned quite favorably by Reb Motele in a responsa published in Emek Shaila (Orach Chaim 17) and it is referred to as a "hidur" in Perach Shoshanim (107), the kuntrus of minhagei Manistritch in the back of Erchei Yehoshua (Reb Leibele's brother-in-law, the son of Reb Yitzchok Yoel of Kantikuziv). The Hornosteipler Rebbe in Flatbush told me that he follows this minhag, along with Skver and some of the other Chernobyl branches.

* * *
Like the Baal Shem Tov and subsequently all Chassidim, the Rebbe shlit"a does not eat gebroks (also called matza sheruya, lit. soaked matza). Many are exceedingly stringent regarding gebroks and go to great lengths to ensure that no amount of matza comes in contact with any liquid. So too, no utensils should come in contact with gebroks. Others, while they do not eat gebroks, they will be more lenient about utensils or are makpid only that water shouldn't touch the matzos but other liquids or spreads may be eaten with matza.
At the Rebbe's seder, all the participants are given bags in which to keep their matzos in order to minimize the amount of loose crumbs. Many will break off a small piece of matza while it is still in the bag and proceed to eat only one small piece at a time. Also, the matzos that are on the table should be covered, lest a drop of water fall on them.
The Baal Hatanya writes clearly in his Shulchan Aruch that the stringency of gebroks applies only to matza with water but regarding fruit juice, "it is simple that there is no reason to be stringent at all". Many, including the Rebbe, however, are careful also with fruit juice (Divrei Chaim was makpid?). But one does not have to worry about milk products that do not have water mixed in. For example, I once heard the Rebbe tell someone they could eat matza with cream cheese or butter. Even though the main issue with gebroks is with liquid, such as dipping matza into liquid, he nonetheless later told someone else not to spread avocado on matza.
If crumbs of matza did fall into a utensil with water, one should not eat the food that was in the utensil. The utensil itself can be washed out well and reused.
On the last day of Yom Tov (in chutz la'aretz obviously), we have the minhag to eat gebroks. The Rebbe does not have special utensils for this rather he uses the regular Pesach utensils and uses the same utensils next year without kashering them.

This is a work in progress so please send me any other minhagim, halachos, sources, stories and other information that you may know about. As always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated.


Tzvi Werther said...

Any mention of the Rabbi's minhag concerning gebroks would be lacking if it is not also mentioned, that the issur of v'ahacta leraicha kamocha and malbim pnei chaveiro berabim are d'oraisya and do not yield to maintain the minhag of gebrokts. On one occasion, the Rabbi related that he made his usual announcement to his guests not to dip matza in the soup - and accordingly, one of the guests dipped his matza in the soup anyway. Upon observing this, the Rabbi asked his daughter to discretely set aside this individual's dish so it should not be used for the the remainder of the chag.

The Rabbi publicly chastised himself, questioning the permissibility of his behavior - was he not embarrassing this individual, as his daughter surely would understand that he had not followed his direct instruction?

It seems that many get lost in their zeal to fulfill the minhag of gebrokts in particular.

More integral to the core values of what the Rabbi teaches is not the minhag itself, but rather the perspective it takes to properly fulfill the minhag.

Damesek said...

Reb Tzvi,thanks for your insightful and on-the-mark comment.
Of course, minhagim are not chas v'shalom ever more important than basic bein odom l'chaveiro. In general, I feel conflicted about writing minhgaim because I fear that many people will see a minhag in print and it will become a k'peida that will hurt shalom bayis or embarrass someone. Without the proper perspective, it can place he emphasis in all the wrong places.
I, as you, have experienced Pesach seudos of the Rabbi both in his "natural habitat" at home when there are many guests who may be less knowledable about Pesach minhgaim, as well as in Lakewood when the oilam is all "heimish". As far as I could tell, the Rabbi was the same in regard to his minhagim and kpeidos but in neither setting did the minhagim (gebroks included) become a דבר בפני עצמו and never with the neurotic approach that you alluded to, as you know.
A Belzer Rebbe (don't recall which) was once in Sanz and noticed that the tisch was set up in a way that the Divrei Chaim would have to sit with his back to the Aron Kodesh. The Belzer expressed his surprise, "You are not makpid?" The Divrei Chaim answered, "I was m'kabel one hakpada from my rebbe, the Ropshitzer: Not to have any hakpados." When I heard this maaseh I immediately thought "And my rebbe doesn't even have that hakpada." While it sounds a bit Carlebachian, I think there is a lot of amkus to it. Sure, the Divrei Chaim had minhagim. But he made sure that they did not become "k'peidos". The Rabbi, shlit"a, doesn't know from the whole concept of "k'peida". He's not even makpid not to be makpid. Its being in the moment and involved in what you are doing, and not busy with the "externalaties" of the avoda. This is also one of Rabbi's concerns about minhagim. We should never forget the ikar in place of the tofel. The Rabbi's father used the mashal of the Otzar TEfilos Yisroel. It has a ton of pages even before Adon Olam. He said its so that if you lose a page or two over the years, it will take a long time till you reach the "Adon Olam". So too with minhagim.
I wanted to write a post about the whole topic but I never got around to it. Thanks for being the catalyst.
The last line you wrote is exceptionally well put.

Tzvi Werther said...

I realized as I wrote that what I was asserting could be applied to all minhagim, but it seemed to me, that it was this minhag in particular where the Rabbi himself felt a need to draw the distinction.

Conversely, there is a concept of mihag yisroel torah and minhagim do, at times, take on a more stringent status than the mitzvos themselves.

The joke goes, how do you know that a minhag is followed even in violation of a mitzvah? Because we know the torah commands us to pay back a loan as soon as possible, and the custom is not to!

In Satmar, there were some instances where minhagim were followed at all costs. One such custom, was to never have a chupah in shul. This was based on a prewar battle when certain Jews particularly desired to wed in house of worship - like the goyim did in their churches. Now that the battle to prevent the erosion of torah true yiddishkiet had come to this issue, the minhag was instituted to never marry in a shul, no matter what. No exceptions.

You are right, an entire post dedicated to the many perspectives of minhag would be a good idea.

Get to work.

jpittleman said...

maybe im not seeing it in the right light but the story about not eating machine matzah in siberia and life not worth living because of it was disturbing to me, i could list a bunch of reasons, maybe someone could explain it more for me

also (i know this is not the topic of discussion, but you happened to bring it up), in general i see Reb Shlomo's derech in avodah full of amkus, that's his whole thing, no? "deepest of the deep". he says "the one thing i can't stand is superficiality"

gut purim

Damesek said...

Sholom aleichem, reb Josh!
I don't really get that story either. But what we do see is that there were people who lived the words of their zeides and rebbes so completely that they couldn't fathom deterring from them even in the slightest.
I'll tell you another story that I heard from the Rabbi, an awesome, gorgeous inspiring story. We may have spoken about it before.
There was a yid who rented land and an inn from the local poritz. As usual, his business was suffering, he wasn't able to pay his rent on time and the poritz threatened to put him/his family in jail/exile them to Siberia/kill them, etc. The yid made such a commotion that the situation somehow caught the attention of either the Czar (or some other high-ranking official). The yid was brought before the official and upon hearing the yid's claim that he had payed on time (for this was the only way for him to save his life), the official decided if the yid could bring two witnesses to testify that he had payed, the yid would be saved. This official knew that there were tzadikim who surely would only tell the truth so he demanded that the tzadik Reb Moshe Leib of Sassov and the Yosher Divrei Emes be the witnesses.
So, the yid went home certain that the tzadikim would testify in order to save the life of a fellow Jew. This was no-brainer.
After the yid explained that his life was on the line, Reb Moshe Leib (renowned for his ahavas yisroel) immediately agreed.
When the yid asked the Yosher Divrei Emes, he became very serious and asked if he could have some time to think about it. Thinking that there was no way the tzadik wouldn't agree as Reb Moshe Leib did, the yid went ahead and told the official that he would have his two witnesses by such-and-such a designated time. The night before the scheduled trial, the Yosher Divrei Emes retired early to his room and for hours and hours all that could be heard were his heart-wrenching cries and moans. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the crying ceased and the few chassidim that were in the other room assumed that the rebbe had finally fallen asleep.
When they opened the door to bring him to testify, they discovered that he had passed away in his sleep. He had asked for mercy that Hashem take his soul and not put him in a position where he would be forced to lie. The entire night he had bemoaned and dreaded the possibility that he may have to lie even to save the life of another yid!
If the Divrei Chaim held that the machine-matza of those days was chometz gamur (which I am pretty sure he did), then chometz on Pesach is just as assur as lying. That's all I can offer you.

What I meant by "Carlebachian" was that many of his lines make you stop and scratch your head. For example, "You know who comes to the Sukka? Eliyhau Hanavi! You know how I know? If the holy Ushpizin are there in the sukka, how could Eliyahu Hanavi possibly not come?" I love it!
I was just saying that my line of "The Ropshitzer had one hakpada: not to have any hakpados. And my rebbe doesn't even have that hakpada" sounded a bit like some of the more classic Carlebachian lines.
And absolutely, his derech is the antithesis to superficiality and misplaced priorities. In that regard, he and the Rabbi, shlit"a, are very similar (if I may be so bold).
Just for fun, I will remind you of one of the Rabbi's favorites. When Moishele Ganev comes into the Baal Shem Tov's beis medrash and the Toldos throws him out, Carlebach says, "You know, the Toldos, he was holy. But he wasn't the Baal Shem Tov!" I love it!

jpittleman said...

you have comforted me Fox you have comforted me... shkoyach : ) there's so much more to say but i have to go to sleep

maybe we can shmooze this week about purim

i had a nice idea, i went with a friend to an old age home in the morning on purim, was mamesh gevalt, summersaults, dancing to an acordian, anyway i was thinking how in a way the יין is just lighter fluid and that doing something awesome like this is the real simcha, the wood of the fire, that i can go into the seudah already high and ready to go, and i was thinking, ahh gevalt it's the wood of the fire, real Torah, it's eitz chaim hi lamachazikim bah and "ותלו אותו על העץ" shenizkeh

ps that was the best dancing with Mudcha Dov shlit'a in the under construction entrance to rachmistrivka to yachad yachad 5 years ago, and dancing in the bleachers ליהודים ליהודים היתה אורה ...