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    What is the origin of the custom of not eating gebrochts (matzah dipped in water)?

    The Shulchan Aruch (OC 463:3) rules that flour made from roasted wheat kernels may not be mixed with water on Pesach. Even though wheat that is fully roasted cannot become chometz, we are concerned that perhaps some kernels were not properly roasted, and subsequently, the flour might become chometz when mixed with water.

    The same concern applies to matzah with flour on its surface. It is forbidden to mix such matzah with water because the flour may not be fully baked and would be susceptible to becoming chometz (MB 463:8).

    Where there is no perceptible flour in or on the matzah, is there a concern that some of the dough may not have been thoroughly mixed, and within the matzah there may be raw flour that was not fully baked? There are two different customs; Mishnah Berurah (458:4) notes that there are anshei ma’aseh, scrupulous individuals, who act stringently and do not allow matzah to come in contact with water, as perhaps it may contain unbaked flour. Many Chassidim have this custom. However, Mishnah Berurah (ibid., citing Shaarei Teshuva 460) maintains that this stringency is not halachicaly mandated, since there is no evidence of raw flour in matzah. In addition, our matzos are thin-like crackers, and it is highly unlikely they will contain flour. This was the opinion of Chazon Ish (OC 121:19) as well. Shaarei Teshuva, (OC 460:10) notes that both groups are meritorious. Those who do not eat gebrochts are motivated by yiras shomayim (fear of heaven), lest they inadvertently transgress the laws of Pesach. The ones who are lenient are concerned that not eating gebrochts will limit their simchas (joy of) Yom Tov. Shaarei Teshuva concludes: “Both groups are pursuing paths for the sake of Heaven, and I declare: And Your people are entirely righteous (Yeshaya 60:21).”

    I do not eat gebrochts (matzah dipped in water). Should my stringency include refraining from eating matzah with butter as well?

    As previously noted, those who avoid gebrochts are concerned that there may be unbaked flour in the matzah. Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Teshuvos 6) rules that even those who do not eat gebrochts may be lenient regarding matzah dipped in fruit juice, because Shulchan Aruch (OC 462:1) rules that fruit juices, a category which includes milk and butter, do not cause flour to become chometz. On the other hand, Sama D’chayei (13:6) notes that although fruit juice mixed with flour will not become chometz, fruit juice mixed with water and flour will become chometz in an accelerated manner (see OC 462:2). Since matzah is made with water, some of the water moisture is retained in the matzah even after the baking. As such, the combination of matzah and fruit juice may accelerate the chometz to occur (if there is unbaked flour in the matzah). Therefore, Sama D’chayei argues that one who is stringent regarding gebrochts should not let the matzah come into contact with fruit juice. The Steipler Gaon concurred with this ruling (Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 2, p. 50).

    May I serve meat at the Seder meal that was prepared using the sous vide method of cooking (meat is wrapped in plastic and cooked in hot water)?

    Shulchan Aruch (OC 476:1) writes that in a place where the custom is to eat roasted meat on Seder night, it is permitted. In a place where the custom is to refrain from eating roasted meat, it may not be served. The reason for this custom is so that people should not suspect that the meat is from a korban Pesach. The Mishnah Berurah (476:1) writes that in our lands the custom is to be stringent and we do not even allow pot roast. Although a korban Pesach could not be roasted in a pot, still pot roast resembles roasted meat and is therefore forbidden because of ma’aris ayin (giving the impression that one is doing something wrong). Rav Schachter, shlita ruled that the same applies to meat cooked in a sous vide machine. Since the meat cooks in its own juices and not in water, it too is similar to pot roast and should not be served at the seder.

    I am puzzled by our practice of reciting a separate blessing on each cup of wine. Ordinarily, when I recite a blessing on one cup of wine, I do not make another blessing when I drink another cup, unless I specifically did not have in mind to drink further. Why is Pesach different?

    That is a good question. Indeed, the custom of the Sefardim (following Shulchan Oruch 474:1) is to only make a bracha on the first cup of Kiddush and the third cup after Birchas Hamazon. (After Birchas Hamazon a new bracha must be recited because the Birchas Hamazon concludes the meal and cancels all brachos.) However, Rama (ibid.) rules, and this is the custom of Ashkenazic Jewry, that a separate blessing is recited on each cup. One explanation is the following; Between the first and second cup, and between the third and fourth cup, two paragraphs of Hallel and a concluding bracha are said. During these recitations, one may not interrupt with extraneous activities, such as drinking wine. This period of time, when drinking is not permitted, is considered a hefsek (break), and the bracha on wine that was previously recited is terminated. As such, a separate bracha must be recited on the second and fourth cup of wine. (Based on Ran, Pesachim 110a and Mishna Berura 474:4)

    I sometimes become hungry and thirsty during Maggid. May I eat a snack or drink a coffee?

    The second cup of wine at the seder is filled after karpas so that Maggid (the central portion of the Haggadah) will be recited over the cup of wine. The Mishnah Berurah writes that after filling the cup, it is inappropriate to drink a separate cup of wine (Be’ur Halachah 473:3 s.v. Harishus). Both Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Hil. Pesach 9:34) and Rav Elyashiv (Shevus Yitzchok, Pesach 9:3) maintain that only wine is restricted, but in cases of necessity, one is permitted to drink water or coffee. Rav Elyashiv explains that unless there is a pressing need, even water should be avoided because the Haggadah should be recited with a sense of awe and reverence (see Mishnah Berurah 473:71).

    Must I use wine for the four cups, or may I use grape juice instead?

    There are two schools of thought among the Poskim. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Hagaddah Kol Dodi 3:4) maintains that since Chazal instituted the drinking of four cups of wine to feel a sense of freedom, grape juice should not be drunk. Although it has the halachic status of wine, it is not an alcoholic beverage, and one only feels a sense of freedom when drinking an alcoholic beverage. (If there is the possibility that the person will be endangered by drinking the wine, grape juice may be used.) This was also the opinion of R’ Eliyashiv (Shvus Yitzchak, Peasch 10:2) and R’ Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion III, 15:4). However, the Chazon Ish (Hilchos Chag B’Chag, Chapter 19: fn. 24), the Brisker Rav and the Tchebiner Rav (Teshuvos VeHanhagos II, 243) held that it is unnecessary to drink wine, and grape juice is acceptable. Indeed, these great Sages actually drank grape juice at the seder (ibid.). Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik as well drank grape juice for the last three cups. However, he insisted on drinking wine for the first cup (Kiddush) to satisfy the opinion of Rambam that one may not use cooked wine for Kiddush. Since grape juice is always cooked, he would only use non-mevushal wine for Kiddush. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 9:11) explained that since grape juice has the halachic status of wine, one experiences freedom when drinking grape juice even though it is non-alcoholic.

    If one is ill and unable to eat any matzah at the Seder, is there any reason for them to buy matzah? Yes. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l writes that even if one cannot eat matzah, they must still place matzah in front of them when they recite the Haggadah. Matzah is referred to as “Lechem Oni” (literally poor man’s bread). Chazal explain the term “Oni” to refer to speech—it is bread in front of which we speak many words and ideas on the night of the Seder. Therefore, matzah should be placed on the Ke’ara (Seder plate) and uncovered for the recitation of Maggid. Additionally, Rav Auerbach writes that one who is unable to eat matzah at the Seder should study the halachos of matzah at the Seder. This is similar to what is discussed in the Gemara (Menachos 110a) regarding one who is obligated to bring a sacrifice but cannot do so. The way to compensate is by studying the halachos of that korban, and poskim apply this concept to other mitzvos as well (see Elya Rabba OC 300:1).