Non-Gebrokts- is the minhag or tradition that some people have not to combine wet substances with matzo for fear that it will become leavened.
You really don’t truly experience a non-gebrokts Pesach (Passover) until you stay somewhere that holds of Chassidic minhagim. Hotels feature masterful chefs which can manipulate those egg noodles and make it seem like real lasagna with real soggy matzo as the noodle layers. But regular Joes or shall I say Channies, do not have such abilities. In fact Pesach at a non-gebrokt household is probably the worst food experience one can have, combine it with a long seder that tends to be all in Yiddish or Hebrew- and stringencies on how big a kezayis is, you have one meal of suffering cut out for you.
In fact it is a statistical fact that sederim held at non-gebrokt households will last 1.5 times longer then regular matzo ball eating apikorsim households. The shortest sederim tend to be those held by singles, and people who use ancient 1950’s era Maxwell house hagadas.
Having to eat the bread of affliction is enough suffering for me, having to eat it over a plastic bag while the prying eyes of the woman of the house are making sure no crumbs of matzo are carried by stray winds into the drops of grape juice on your plate. Then if your at a really strict household, they put paper towels in their mouths before eating matzo so that all droplets of saliva are soaked up before the matzo even touches your tongue, I told them that they could smoke weed and they could do it without being over any melacho of squeezing, and not only would it give them cotton mouth- but they would be able to eat korech without having to gag on all the matzo and maror they had to choke down.
In fact non-gebrokts people are known to eat huge korech sandwiches that make me look like I have an eating disorder. I am one of those people that takes some Romaine Lettuce and loads on the charoset, kind of like I was eating nachos or something. I like thick choroset with walnuts in it, I always remember getting the free charoset from Telse Yeshiva, with the feather and the wooden spoon- which I have recently found out is just another tradition which no one really follows. In fact the only real necessity when searching for chometz is a candle. I always liked the whole wooden spoon and feather thing, made me feel like an Indian going into battle.
I was in a seforim store in Monsey yesterday and saw yet another funny Jewish invention to rip off the lazy. It was bag that said “Chometz” on it and featured ten pieces of bread in little dime bags for sale. It was $1.99, I joked about it with the owner, you know a loaf of bread costs that much. I bet you the guy is making loads off of it. I am not cleaning nothing, I am flying to Colorado, although I did eat most of my chometz, that always sucks when you come back from vacation and find an empty house devoid of food and lines at the pizza store like there was some food shortage or something.
Do people really crave bread products that much during pesach or is it just tradition to rush to the bagel store an hour after its over. Most kosher places do not open the night that Pesach ends, but on the upper west side we have an establishment known as H&H Bagels, and if you wanted to see the upper west side Jewish community en masse, just show up at the long snaking line of Pesach sufferers on 80th and Broadway an hour after Pesach. Battle stories of the suffering through Pesach without bread products are swapped as are peoples dreams of different foods as if they were dying of hunger after their plane crashed on a desert island. I think it was psychological, after all, I would always eat some ice cream and candy bars on the night after Pesach, and it felt so good to be able to be like normal people and just eat whatever I saw. I think Pesach makes us realize that we have it pretty good with all this kosher food and all.
First spent Pesach in Buffalo, then it got too much of a shlep, then we did Pesach in Monsey, and that became too frum, so we dicided to do the Pesach hotel thing. Here’s how it would work in my house, around December my father would say, where do you guys want to go this year? We always wanted to go to a cool place like Arizona or Italy, but of course he meant where is the cheapest that is not in Florida or the Tri-State area. My dad hated Florida with a passion- only due to the weather, my brother and I hated it because the highest point was 340 feet.
So the first year we stayed in a hotel as adults was when I was 18 and senior in high school. We went to West Virginia, it was my first time in a place where people had southern accents. Hotels were great for two reasons, the food rocked and there was always the chance that you would meet some girls and get to bring them back to your room. The latter never did happen, I met plenty of girls, just no one took me up on my offer to come back to my room. In fact if you expect to get some at a Pesach hotel, you have to go to Florida I hear.
The seders at hotels are the best. In fact they are one of the reasons so many people go to hotels. If your dad is single- he gets lumped into the family sederim, which is usally the token conservative people and all the old folks in white yarmulkes and doilies. The old folks are always interesting. The best is when you sit down at your table and there are 10 other people that you have to talk to and make nice with. My brother and I were always the only ones under 50, and way beyond the family tables there was always some cuttie that you had convinced yourself was looking your way during the seder. She probably wasn’t, but it was something to get you through the painful ordeal.
In general I do not like the seder. At hotels it’s a little better, because you don’t have to sit through 15 ma-nishtanas in Yiddish and Hungarian and you don’t have to wait for people to eat three boxes of matzo to fulfill their kezayis, you also usually have a choice between several different karpas selections- so if parsley doesn’t suit you, you can always get a potato.
Another thing that’s great about hotels, is that even the non-gebrokts ones don’t have a secret gebrokts police making sure you don’t crumble up the matzo and put it in your soup. In fact if you think geborkts is treife, I would advise you to stay at home, because lots of illegal gebrokts activities go on at supposedly non-gebrokts hotels. My old man was always using his piece of matzo that always looked like the State of Tennessee as I recall- as his knife. Even at non-gebrokts houses he was always finding ways to satisfy his semi leavened bread craving, whether it be dipping his matzo in the charoset or into the soup, or into his coffee- yuck. Yes there is a whole generation of people that dip matzo in coffee folks.
I always thought the people who held non-gebrokts were just insane. To think that matzo would rise if the seltzer bottler exploded on it, seemed to me just like the whole afikomen search- it was just another way to keep the kids entertained. Man, you should see whenever something spills at a non-gebrokts household, its like they switch to attack mode. Suddenly everyone is up from their pillow encased chairs and the roadies switch the table cloths and all contaminated areas are immediately thrown out. Its as if there was a nuclear leak or something, I can only imagine the women in safety suits removing the slowly rising matzo flakes with the spilled grape juice or seltzer so as not to let any leavened matzo touch anywhere. Craziness I tell you- but it keeps the kids awake and its gives them an extra question at the 4 questions. Why on this night do we assume that bread can rise from wet matzo, and if it can rise from wet matzo how on earth can we eat it? Will it not rise in our wet mouths?
When the heck did Romaine lettuce become maror, at least give me tomatoes if we are going the salad route. Horseradish is perfectly fine, but I think that in modern times people are so week that they need substitutes, or maybe it’s to keep the heimishe companies in business, you know they ones that sell big lamps, vegetable wash and bodek veggies. It’s always a conspiracy in my mind.
Until two weeks ago I had no idea what I was going to do for Pesach, I found out I would not be off until Friday so it nixed my plans to drive to Denver and then around Utah and New Mexico, that’s what I would have done if I was not working a real job. So instead I am flying to Denver tomorrow to spend it with on of my best buds, luckily I am the same shoe size, he’s got two bikes and skis for me, and I am pumped. Its also Hashgacha prutus that Pesach will give me three days to get acclimatized. I am bringing my computer- although I have no idea if I will blog or not.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Pesach (Passover)