The great kitniyot debate continued.

In Jewish Law and custom, there is rarely just one reason given for doing (or not doing) a particular thing. Not eating Kitniyot (products made from seeds and beans, including rice, corn, and legumes) on Pesach is no different.

One of the reasons I have often heard is “so that we won’t become confused,” as foods made with kitniyot could resemble food made with chametz proper.

While I appreciate the medieval European rabbinic powers that were trying to spare me from accidentally incurring karet (spiritual excision), let’s debunk that right now. Ladies and gentleman of the Jury, if the continued reason is so I shouldn’t become confused then why would tofu be prohibited and the following be allowed;

potatoflour.jpg

Thanks to ingenious Jewish minds, the above items are made with Potato flour and matzo flour. I hesitated to post this least the above items be declared unkosher by next Pesach. Nonetheless I persist.

Another reason given is that once upon a time, foods such as beans were considered poor man’s food, and lentils were considered mourner’s food. Some sources say that because of the societal understanding of these foods, they were originally prohibited at all Jewish holidays where we were supposed to be joyful. Ultimately they were only prohibited on Pesach, so the people wrongly assumed it must have something to do with kitniyot and made up the reason ex post facto.

But what of the great Ashkenaz/Sephardic divide? Well folks, prepare to be illuminated. It is explained that in Sephardic and Mizrachi countries (like Israel for instance), there is only one rainy season, and therefore only one crop on a given field per year. In Europe where it rains in both winter and summer, it was possible to grow wheat one season, and beans or lentils the next. The fear was that when coming to collect the legumes, wheat that remained from the previous season would be gathered up as well. This explanation makes the most sense to me, but to the best of my knowledge, we don’t farm like this anymore.

Nonetheless, I understand that there is value in tradition, and even in so-called sephardic homes like ck’s Kitniyot will never be kosher on Pesach. But as a Baal Tshuvah, I know for a fact that I’m the first Jew in at least four generations of my family to keep Pesach at all past the seder night. So as for tradition, heck, I’m living in Eretz Yisrael, just consider it getting in touch with my Israelite roots.

Now I’m off to get my coffee, matzo and hummus. The breakfast of champions I tell ya.

About the author

Laya Millman

6 Comments

  • Leya, some Sephardim don’t use Chummus on Pessach because it sounds like Chametz.

    On Pessach, we leave our addiction to bread, and all that implies, and just make do w/ the simple. That is why it is better not to work on Chol Hamoed if one is able.
    Kitniot was allowed on a case by case basis.

  • um, yeah whats up with that, lets get with the times. I agree where do we vote one this one.! isnt how they made rules during the days of the great assembly? yes, i understand that those were different times, but something needs to be done. every year we get new rules on more things we cant do, when are we going to get more of things we can do?

  • yeah…a rabbi gave me the “you can make things out of these things that looks like things made out of chametz” explanation…and i was like, um, so do all the matzah cakes and cookies and etc etc…

    in fact, i think making such items defeats the purpose of the holiday. what’s so different and special if our desserts basically look and feel the same (though they may not taste quite as good)? anyway, i eat kitniyot gladly.

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