Friday, April 09, 2010

Ashkenazim rebel against kitniyot restriction

Thanks to SuperRaizy's "Lots and Lotsa Matzah Edition" of the weekly Haveil Havalim link-fest, I read Esser Agarot's "Qitnoyoth Wrap-up 5770", which led me via link to this post on the Kitniyot Liberation Front blog noting the increase in kitniyot (explanation here, list here) consumption among Ashkenazim. My parents gave up avoiding kitniyot after making aliyah (moving to Israel), and I probably would, too, if I made aliyah. There's no reason for the prohibition against eating legumes and seeds on Passover anymore, and I prefer to choose for myself which illogical customs I observe, rather than having the choice dictated to me. :) Sadly, the choice does seem to be dictated in the Galut/Diaspora, at least here in the United States--it seems to me that most American Ashkenazim, led by our (Orthodox and Conservative) rabbinate, still observe the prohibition.


Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

I asked my Conservative rabbi whether the shul's Chametz sale would include Kitniyot. It did not. Thus I was able to sell through the shul and keep eating Kitniyot.

Fri Apr 09, 04:08:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Minnesota Mamaleh said...

true drama in the states about kitinyot, right? interesting to think about, but rather emotionally debated, i'd say. my favorite line (and so, so true for most of us): "I prefer to choose for myself which illogical customs I observe, rather than having the choice dictated to me." *love* it. thanks.

Fri Apr 09, 04:14:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Reform BT, the prohibition against Ashkenazim eating kitniyot, however strong it may be, is still only a minhag/custom. The sale of chametz before Pesach includes only chametz because all Jews are forbidden by halachah to *eat or own* chametz (defined by halachah/Jewish religious law as wheat, rye, oats, barley, and spelt that are leavened) during Pesach, but the prohibition against Ashkenazi Jews eating kitniyot during Pesach refers only to *eating,* not ownership, so selling kitniyot before Pesach is unnecessary.

Minnesota Mameleh, I'm glad you appreciate my warped sense of humor. :)

Fri Apr 09, 06:50:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous David Tzohar said...

I disagree (along with virtually all major poskei halacha) that there is no reason today for the prohibition of kitniyot. There were two major reasons for the original prohibition.
1-Since kitniyot are usually packed and marketed together with the five grains which when come into contact with moisture become chametz.
2-Flour made from kitniyot can be baked into bread and cake(like corn bread or rice cakes) they could be mistaken for baked goods made from the five grains.
These reasons are no less relevant today than they were 500 years ago. Illogical? Not at all.
I must tell you that as someone who grew up Conservative(USY, LTF, Ramah)and became Orthodox,one of the things that bothered me the most was the "supermarket" view of religion. You certainly have the freedom of choice to eat kitniyot (or chocolate cake for that matter). IMHO five hundred years of tradition means something. Logical or not.

Mon Apr 12, 04:57:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that Conservative rabbis felt that they had the authority to overturn the Torah (homosexuality, Kohainim marrying converts and divorcees, etc) but they can't overturn the prohibition on kitniyot!

Mon Apr 12, 09:36:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

1. If the mixing of kitniyot and chametz is such a problem, why isn't eating kitniyot forbidden by the S'fardi rabbinate?
2. My late mother used to have to hunt all over Jerusalem for Pesach food made without kitniyot. When she finally got too old to be able to travel so much, she and my father gave up avoiding kitniyot. Why should a minhag that causes such (unnecessary) hardship to so many people be maintained just because of marit ayin (rough translation: "it looks bad")?

Anon, good question.

Mon Apr 12, 10:44:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...


David never said it was maris ayin. It's not a question of looking bad, it's a question of confusion. One way or the other, who really cares? It's 8 days, get over it. Unless you live in Israel, it's easy to find plenty of food that is kosher l'pesach.

And it doesn't really matter why Sephardim do what they do if you are Ashkenazi. Marry a s'fard if you want to change your minhag, otherwise, you're stuck. (Incidentally, there are plenty of sephardim who do not eat kitniyot, so it's geographically dependant.)

We don't lightly change our minhagim.

Mon Apr 12, 04:11:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

David said,
2-Flour made from kitniyot can be baked into bread and cake(like corn bread or rice cakes) they could be mistaken for baked goods made from the five grains.

To me, that's a marit-ayin reason--kosher-for-Passover cakes are often made with potato starch, yet we don't consider potatoes kitniyot just because we can make cake from them. You may disagree, of course.

Fortunately, the ban against kitniyot is not a problem for me, but it most certainly *is* a problem for vegetarians, who depend on kitniyot such as soybeans and peanuts for protein, and for gluten-intolerant folks who can barely digest a small piece of matzah and often eat rice or corn as their grain of choice during the other 51 weeks of the year. To say "We don't lightly change our minhagim" may be true, but that are those who don't take their vegetarians principles or their serious health problems lightly, either. I was absolutely serious when I said that the kitniyot prohibition poses a hardship, if not for me personally, certainly for many others. The gluten-intolerant old friend of ours who was hostess of our second Seder spent a future on gluten-free oat matzah, and can barely afford to eat it.

Mon Apr 12, 04:34:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Um, she spent a *fortune* on gluten-free oat matzah, and could barely afford to eat it.

Mon Apr 12, 04:38:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

I can't speak to the gluten intolerant, but I know people who get by.

Vegetarianism is a choice. (A foolish one, in my opinion, if God didn't want us to eat animals, why did He invent barbecue??? Further proof God is male. ; ) You don't choose your minhagim unless you are a BT. And, as a former vegetarian, you just suck it up. Again, it's 8 days out of 365 and 1/4.

Tue Apr 13, 07:50:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Au contraire, the barbecue is proof that G-d is female: G-d invented barbecue because it was the only way She could get the men to do the cooking. :)

Okay, okay, enough silly stereotypes. :)

Ironically, Pesach creates both difficulties and opportunities for the gluten-intolerant. On the one hand, such staples as rice, corn, and buckwheat (kasha) are off-limits for those who don't eat kitniyot during Pesach. On the other hand, kosher-for-Passover baked goods, especially in communities in which many people avoid "gebrochts" (products made with matzah, matzah meal, or matzah farfel--they fear that added a liquid to matzah risks creating leaven), are often made with potato starch and/or nuts (or apricot kernels), and are therefore gluten-free. My girlfriend used to stock up on gluten-free goodies every Pesach. Apparently, she's not the only one--the Jewish Week recently printed an article about gluten-intolerant folks approaching kosher-food producers and asking them to make gluten-free products year-round. Here's the link to Gluten-Free Kosher.

Tue Apr 13, 01:59:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Hadassa said...

David Tzohar you must click on the link to Esser Agorot's blog and then to Rav Bar Hayim's site. The prohibition for Ashkenazim not to eat kitniyot was a regional prohibition that should not have been exported from any particular region to any other region.
The Sephardim must also be very careful not to eat kitniyot that has come into contact with the "five grains". The Sephardim also check kitniyot three times to ensure that no hametz grains have adulterated the kitniyot.
We actually have to be just as careful with sugar as we do with grains, kitniyot or not. Moroccan neighbors of ours had the custom of not buying sugar for Pesah because in their town in Morocco the same sacks were used for both wheat flour and sugar. And again, that's a regional custom based on a specific need unique to that region that was needlessly exported.

Sat Apr 17, 06:09:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"The prohibition for Ashkenazim not to eat kitniyot was a regional prohibition that should not have been exported from any particular region to any other region." That makes sense to me. Yes, as Hadassa said, we have to be careful to watch for chametz-and-kitniyot mixtures. But vigilance should suffice, it seems to me.

Sun Apr 18, 12:04:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

The only problem with Hadassah's analysis is she's wrong.

It's express in the Mishna (massechet pesachim), that even things that are minhag are binding. Thus, if one lived in a community where one didn't work on erev pesach (14 Nissan), one didn't work, but if one lived in a community where folks did work on 14 Nissan, one could work.

What if you went from one type of community to the other? You had to uphold the stringencies of both communities.

In any event, I'll reiterate my basic point: It's eight days. Get over it. I'd rather eight days of no kitniyot than 30 days of slichot which the Sephardim do.

Mon Apr 19, 11:06:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

*Everything's* binding, no matter where you live or where you move, no matter whether the minhag makes sense or whether the reason for it no longer exists. In 50 years (if not sooner), the wearing of a black hat--as opposed to a kippah/yarmulkeh/skullcap or a different kind of hat--by men, and the wearing of a sheitel/wig--as opposed to a hat, scarf, snood, or other head-covering--by married women will be considered binding, too. This is one of the reasons why I'm not Orthodox. :(

Mon Apr 19, 04:51:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

no, Shira, that's horse hooey. Nobody thinks the fedora and wearing all black is anything but a new fad. There's photographic evidence of it, that's how recent it is. There's a pic of the late Lubavitcher rebbe wearing a grey hat, and that was simply the fashion. Don't conflate something that's centuries old with a fashion statement.

You're not orthodox because you don't want to be. That's fine, but that's your choice, don't blame a segment of the Orthodox world for your choice.

Incidentally, this Orthodox jew is wearing a purple shirt (white cuffs and collar, cufflinks) black slacks and an olive jacket to work, so don't tell me what you think is binding. It's simply not so.

Tue Apr 20, 07:59:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"You're not orthodox because you don't want to be."

Okay, granted. But I don't think this particular reason for my hesitation in making the switch is entirely illogical. Here's a quote from the Esser Agarot post to which I linked:

"After Jews are in Galuth (exile) for 2,000 years, accepting over time that they are unable to do many of the misswoth as they are dependent upon residing in Eretz Yisra'el and/or the Beth HaMiqdash (Temple) being in place, this is what happens. Focus is placed on only what they can do, and voila! Humrah upon humrah upon humrah."

I think the same is true of many aspects of Jewish practice. We've added not only chumrah upon chumrah, but also minhag upon minhag, and even prayer upon prayer. (See my Morning Madness, Midnight Madness, and Tachanun posts--too lazy to link.) Even *I,* the world's slowest davvener, can pray the matbeiah shel tefillah, the hard-core required part of the service, for Shacharit/Morning Service in about 15 minutes. So how did we end up with a P'sukei deZimrah section that's easily twice as long, and a bunch of prayers afterword, as well. We (Diaspora?) Jews are always adding, never subtracting, even when it would be logical to do so. It drives me nuts to read people saying that we shouldn't give up a minhag just because there's no longer a reason for it. Nu, that's the best possible reason to give up a minhag!

Tue Apr 20, 01:58:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

In case you're curious, here are those links:

Morning Madness—on davvenning Shacharit

Midnight Madness—re the bedtime Sh’ma

Member in good, er, sitting, "I hate Tachanun" club

Tue Apr 20, 06:02:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

And by the way, JDub, that purple shirt with the white cuffs and collar and cufflinks sounds a lot less boring than the black suit and white shirt that my black-hat boss wears every day.

Tue Apr 20, 06:06:00 PM 2010  

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