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Mar 15, 2009

Canceling Kitniyot

I did not feel like breaking my head and listening to the whole shiur, as I usually do in order to confirm quotes from Rav Ovadia Yosef in the secular press. I find his accent difficult to understand (for me) and it takes a lot of effort to listen and understand. Being that they usualyl quote him reasonably accurately, if not out of context at times, I am just going with the quotes here, and not any firsthand kniowledge of the shiur.

Every year, in the past few years, as Pesach comes around the corner, the debate of eating kitniyot heats up. For some reason, the past few years have seen the issue adressed publicly more and more each year. I have some friends who have begun eating kitniyot on Pesach, based on rulings of their rabbonim.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef, who has normally been in faor of cancelling all Ashkenazy customs (perhaps an exagerration) and making one unified custom of Israel based on the "Maran"'s rulings (Rav Yosef Karo - the Beit Yosef) - the forebearer of Sefardic custom, claiming that the sfardic custom is the prevailing cutom in the Land of Israel, has backtracked a bit. If you call any one specific psak backtracking on a general topic..

The only reason I say backtracking is because in his shiur last night Rav Ovadiah Yosef said that the sfardim have minhagim and the ashkenazim have minhagim and they go back hundreds of years and should not be revoked. However, a sfardi should not try to be machmir on issues of kitniyot as each person needs to follow according tot he cutoms of his "eidah".

Rav Yosef says that f an ashkenazy person would ask a sfardi rav, the rav should pasken that it is assur to eat kitniyot. It is no longer a "chumrah", but is actual "din".

Again, the only reason I am surprised by what sounds like such a strong opposition is because in the past Rav Ovadiah has been in favor of making the sfardi minhag the prevailing one in Eretz Yisrael. In this shiur, Rav Ovadiah says clearly that each "eidah" has its own customs that need to be followed.

One other point quoted in the article is that Rav Ovadia said regarding sugar. He said that if it does not say the words "Kosher for Passover" on the bag of sugar, you can write them yourself. It is sugar and there is no problem with it. Sugar is kosher l'mehadrin.

(source: Ynet)

I have no problem with the ban on kitniyot continuing. This despite the fact that I understand completely the logic behind cancelling it, and I even think it makes sense. I just am wary of canceling customs that have been in effect for hundreds of years. What does bother me is the way we add to the kitniyot ban nowadays. Items that never before were considered kitniyot, specifically derivatives of kitniyot, are now considered kitniyot.


  1. On this one I'm definitely with Rav David Bar-Hayim (Machon Shilo)Now that we're back in Eretz Yisrael there is no reason to maintain such a ban only for those of a certain background. Logic needs to also be a consideration....

  2. Dovid,

    Let's take it one step further - let's decide on a uniform minhag for Sta"m, and render passul for use sifrei torah written according to other minhagim, which would then contain letters which had once been kosher, but would be rendered passul according to the newly-accepted "uniform" minhag. (In case you're not aware, the halachot of Sta"m include practices which are OK for sfardim, but not for Ashkenazim, and vice-versa, mostly with the forms of the letters.)

    I fail to see the logic (since you brought it up) of creating a uniform set of minhagim just because we are "back" in Eretz Yisrael:

    - First, you don't connect the two logically (i.e., you don't give any reason why our being "back" in EY necessitates mandating a uniformity among minhagim). While you're thinking of a reason, consider that historically, the different shvatim each had its own sets of minhagim.

    - Second, we were never "out" of Eretz Yisrael - there was always a Yishuv here. We don't even have 50% of the Jews living here yet. Maybe come up with a threshold of what constitutes being "back", and then back it up with something.

    - Thirdly, you don't give any reason why a uniform kitniyot minhag would entail canceling the ban. If anything, instituting the ban for everyone would be a lot less halachically complicated, since noone would have to cancel their own minhag (just considering logic, as you requested....)

    The issur of kitniyot drives me just as crazy as the next (Ashkenazi) guy. But not enough to abandon any semblance of logic and clear thinking.

  3. something being in existence for "hundreds of years" when the whole premise is based on a safek or ignorance, oughtn't be made into din when information IS avaliable.

  4. 50% or more or less should not be an issue. every country/location should have its minhagim, and if yuou move to a country, you should adopt its minhagim, though there are certain situations in which it is mandated to keep old minhagim as well.

    The Jews of Poland did not have different minhagim from each other, for the most part. The Jews of german did not. The Jews of Russia did not. The Jews of Morrocco did not.

    It was only after the war, in America, with masses of immigrants, suddenly in the same building you could have 20 families living, each keeping different minhagim from different countries. They should have all kept "minhag NY" (not that there was such a minhag, but theoretically).

    Eretz Yisrael should have a minhag ha'makom (probably based on sfardi minhagim makes most sense to me because they were always the majority throughout history), and that should be the predominant minhag here that people should keep when they move here.

    That is a very good reason to cancel kitniyot.

    The problem is that nobody keeps any uniform minhag nowadays so why should we start with kitniyot...

  5. Actually Rav Rabinovitch said that the "error" was only 100-150 years old as the Ashkanazim should have abided by the local custom when they came to Eretz Yisrael--which was to eat kitniyot.

    What's sad about this argument is that it's all misplaced energy... we should be worrying about chametz and korban Pesah.

    But I guess there's no money in it for Askanim.

  6. RAv Ovadia might say that the best thing for white folks to do would be to cancel the custom. however, as long as they insist on maintaining it, it is beholden on them and the sephardim to respect the custom.

  7. B"H

    Rafi, What are those "certain situations?"

    Let us also not forget that minhagei Eretz Yisrael are dochei minhagei hutz laAretz even outside of Israel.

    Rav Bar Hayim supports going back much farther than the Beth Yosef, at which point in time we even had a unifying nusah tefillah.

    There were still a few customs which differed from city to city {eg. TB: some residents of Beth Sha'an try to get out of a stringent minhag haMaqom, but Rabbi Yohanan says no. -don't remember the details, but do remember that he never said you couldn't move to another city. ;-} }

    The deeper issue which Rav Bar-Hayim has raised is that there is NO halachic {psychological, sociological, etc. bases yes} basis for keeping minhagei avoth.

    I have asked him repeatedly to write on this issue, and he may. But it seems that it mainly entail the refutation of sources claiming to support such a notion.

    The very limited few "sources" claiming the power of minhagei avoth include everything from p'suqim such as Mishlei 1:8 to a censored girsa of a sugiyah in Talmud Yerushalmi Arachin.

    {I will post the sources as we approach Pesah.}

    In the meantime, here is a recent version of the psaq din in Hebrew supporting the eating of qitniyoth by all Jews in Eretz Yisrael {only in Eretz Yisrael}:


    Scroll down a bit.

  8. The Jews of Morocco very much had different customs. Some of them observed the ban on kitiyot!

  9. "so why should we start with kitniyot..."

    ok, so don't. start with something else.....JUST START!!!! koitniyot, second day yom tov (in ey and even more in yerushalayim), tefillin publicly on chol hamoed in EY....etc. Just start somewhere!

  10. Many people speak about Torat Eretz Yisrael, but most people do not have the foggiest idea what this means, let alone strive to live it. One of the greatest chidushim of Rav Bar Chayim is that he opened up the Talmud Yerushalmi as a source-text for halacha.

    The Vilna Gaon is attributed to have said (in Kol HaTor) that in a certain phase of geulah there'd be a renewed interest in sod- Kaballah, and in Talmud Yerushalmi. This parallels the lights and vessels the Ari haKadosh talks about, both of which must rectified and ultimately put back together as part of the process of tikun.

    On a deep level, when we show we are willing to let go of customs such as kitniyot which weigh us down and siphon off energy from bigger-picture pursuits, in effect we're doing what's called in the Ari being ma'aleh Ma"n: raising up the "female waters", the arousal from below which triggers unifications On High and an influx of Divine sustanance (the "male waters"). In others words, we're saying: "we want change. Judaism as it is is not OK. It's not shalem. I'm not OK with it and I'm willing to do something about it. I want an eretz Yisrael, geulah oriented halachic system and I'm willing to take real steps in that direction." And so Hashem says, "ahh, here's a Jew who wants things to move. So, I'll move things." This is a very deep point indeed.

  11. My family come from Izmir in Turkey. They didn't eat kitniyot - they didn't even eat sugar that came in the big sacks - the reason for abstinence - in case it had wheat mixed in to it; they used cubed sugar.

    Here in Israel, most of the family "melted in to the pot" and now eat kitniyot, as they say that as the items are not sold in large sacks, there is no longer a problem of wheat getting mixed in with it.

  12. there is NO halachic... basis for keeping minhagei avoth.


    The very limited few "sources" claiming the power of minhagei avoth include everything from p'suqim such as Mishlei 1:8 to a censored girsa of a sugiyah in Talmud Yerushalmi Arachin.

    How about Beitzah 4b (talking about holding a second day of yomtov in chu"l, even though we don't set the calendar based on witnesses anymore)? Adding insult to injury, I'll add that the idea of holding onto minhag avoteinu is ascribed in that gemara to chachmei eretz yisrael (שלחו מתם)!

  13. Yoni, No insult here.

    You win the prize, because this is the ONLY one that comes close.

    עבדינן תרי יומי משום דשלחו מתם הזהרו במנהג אבותיכם בידיכם זמנין דגזרו

    The same inyan is found and elaborated upon in Yerushalmi Arachin, and is referred to as a minhag avoth. It is only done so, in that two days was kept in Galuth [in this case, Alexandria] by the previous generations.

    Unfortunately, many want to generalize to everything else and call it minhagei avoth. But it's really not, as it's dictated by the maqom, galuth vs. Eretz Yisrael.

    This was one of the final questions asked of the Sanhedrin before it closed. It said yes, gotta keep it.

    However, once someone makes aliyah, thus becoming a resident of Eretz Yisrael, 1. He is no longer bound by this "minhag of his fathers," thus the power of the maqom prevails. 2. We {I still have to post the sources} also have the inyan that Minhagei Eretz Yisrael are dochei Minhagei Hutz laAretz even IN Hutz laAretz.

    So, if I spend yom tov in the U. S., I have to keep one day, even though I cannot do melacha befarhessia, so as not to confuse nor lead others inappropriately.

    See how two days of yom tov is really a gezerah applied to a maqom, and not really a minhag avoth?

  14. "every country/location should have its minhagim, "

    That's right Rafi, but it is important to realize that E"y can be divided into many locations. Minhag Yerushalayim vs. Minhag Tzfat.
    Furthermore, IIRC there are acharonim who say that there can be 2 separate kehillos (with sep. bes din) in the same place and there minhagim can be distinct.

    The sources quoted referring to minhag avoseichem etc. is referring to people who are living in the same place as their fathers.
    Nobody suggests that if a person moves to E"Y that he should continue observing a second day of Y"T. In fact it is very clear from the gemara that if ein daato lachzor that he adopts chumra and kula of the new place (although some suggest that Rambam doesn't hold that way, but the more straightforward reading in the Rambam is not like that and so understands the Gra).

  15. anon - agreed, but again, in my building of 15 families, there are 15 different sets of minhagim being lived.
    Everybody is still bringing their polish, russiand, hassidic, american, german, morrocan, yemenite, tunisian, syrian and other minhagim with them from whatever country they came from.
    Pople are not taking minhagei Eretz Yisrael in general, except for a few basic public ones.

  16. "On a deep level, when we show we are willing to let go of customs such as kitniyot which weigh us down and siphon off energy from bigger-picture pursuits"

    How does it siphon energy? I'm an ashkenazi, with the minhag not to eat kitniyot and even a family minhag not to eat vegetables that can't be peeled. If I was choosing minhagim from scratch, I'd not choose to eat kitniyot, b/c kitniyot adds variety, tastes better lkovod yom tov and really I personally dont see how I go from eating rice to eating flour. but it's the ashkenazi minhag, so what can i do?(I unfortunately live in chutz laaretz so afaik no one is even arguing to drop it). Then the minhag of vegetables that can be peeled, it's probably based on the fact that vegetables used to be transported in flour sacks, though AIUI no one knows for sure. if it applied all year, we'd probably ask to be meikil, and prob. so would other people with the minhag. but Pesach is one week, and it's our minhag, so we keep it. Here's the thing: how does it siphon energy? Admittedly, there is less variety in food if you knock out food groups, but it's actually pretty simple - you make basic foods!Granted some easy dishes make use of kitniyot and vegetables that can't be peeled, but potatoes are not hard to make! It's a restriction but I can't say it really takes energy to keep. It takes a willingness to tolerate a more limited diet for a week.

  17. "not choose to eat"

    should be choose to eat

  18. Further to Anon's (March 16, 2009 12:01 PM) point, there is more energy spent trying to convince people that living in EY and refraining from kitniyot on Pessach betrays a "galuth mentality" (whatever that is) than by those who quiety follow the minhagim they have their entire lives.

  19. You are wrong for bringing up this non-issue. Kitniyos is 100% assur [according to your minhag]. There is no room for negotiation. It has the force of neder. rafi, I think you should get yourself some new friends. I certainly wouldn't eat in their house all year round. They decide halacha on their own, and not based on shulchan aruch.

  20. jew - they follow their rav. they did not decide this on their own. As I said, I do not eat kitniyot, because even though the logic of canceling it makes perfect sense to me, for me the minhag is too strong, and my rav is among the overwhelming majority who say not to cancel it.
    But these friends follow their rav, not my rav or your rav.

  21. I have some friends who have begun eating kitniyot on Pesach, based on rulings of their rabbonim.

    Did they decide to start eating based on the rulings of their rabbonim, or did they decide their rabbonim based on the their rulings about starting to eat kitniyos?

    All of the ones I know who have adopted such practices are either officially Conservative, or of the second category...

  22. I don't understand the sugar thing at all. What if the sugar was manufactured in a place where flour was processed? Or simpler, what if the distributor stored the sugar with the flour (after all, they both come in similarly sized sacks, etc) on the way to the store? It is entirely obvious to me that the paper sacks of both sugar and flour "leak" a little, even when sealed!


  23. I wonder what exactly would be decided if one of the requirements for biyat hamashiach would be a single minhag yisrael? Would we be eating kitniyot or not?

    I think in general, the trend is ever so slowly towards the sefardi minhagim. In chutz laaretz, nobody would use soybean oil on pesach, but baaretz, many ashkenazim use it.


  24. mark - the truth is that even if the sugar is anufactured with a kosher l'pesach l'mehadrin stamped on each side of the bag, if it is transported in trucks with flour sacks, or whatever, and something leaks, you have the same problem.
    I guess he is saying that the reality is that sugar is manufactured on its own, so yes, external problems could arise (problems that a stamp will not help), but for the most part sugar is kosher and nothing can affect that.

  25. Mike - the people I know are as orthodox as you or me (well, probably more than me), and are talmidim of Rav Bar-Hayyim who has his hiddush of minhag eretz yisrael.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. They're talmidim of R' Bar-Hayyim, or they follow his psak about kitniyos?

    Were they talmidim of his before his kitniyos psak? Are they machmir where he's machmir?

    I've found that most people that I know who follow him have done so for reasons that are, at their core, not exactly intellectually honest.

  28. the ones I know who eat kitniyot were his talmidim before the psak as well. They are the ones who worked on publicizing it, which kind of irks me that then they say we are so hung up on kitniyot that it distracts us from the issues of korban pesach and beis hamikdash - they are the ones who made kitniyot into a big discussion nowadays. We can deal with korban pesach without changing a minhag of kitniyot. The discussion si really because of them, not because of our hang ups.
    But regardless, that does not chamge the fact that they are following their rav.

    Are othe rpeople less honest about it. probably. But that is true of most things. When a rav comes out with a hetter for something, do all sorts of other people who never bbefore cared about that rav suddenly call him a great rav and follow that specific hetter? for sure.
    But the main core I think are doing it honestly.

  29. Mike,

    1. Personally I have been a talmid of Rav Bar Hayim since before this psaq din. And, yes, I am mahmir when he is mahmir.

    I started eating qitniyoth based on the ruling of his beth din, and the halachic evidence to make such a ruling.

    You may be right about the "convservatives." However, I am not one of them, has wehalliah.

    Unfortunately, many critics have failed to provide an halachic sources to support their case. Name calling, yes. Asmachtoth, no.

    Even kitniyos defense league, or whatever he's called, provides the Aruch Ha Shulhan (certainly a formatable halachic authority) who says one should keep this custom, yet he doesn't say why, I don't believe.

    Yet, other Ashkinazim likethe Hacham Tzvi and Ya'abetz call it a minhag shtut.

    The Ro"Sh is silent on the issue, and his son calls it a humrah yetherah.

    2. I'm not sure what you mean by being intellectually honest or not. When I ask RBH a question he provides me with the sources, including the minority opinions.

    As Rav Kahane and others have said, "If you ask a halachic question, you are entitled to a halachic answer."

    I certainly do not follow this ruling or that ruling because I "feel" like it. I follow it because I believe it to be the halacha,...which often goes against Western logic and sensibilities.

    Rav Bar Hayim may be reached at harav@machonshilo.org, and is prepared for the seasonal onslaught on your Pesah questions.

  30. I am a talmid of HaRav Bar-Hayim and one thing one can say about thim for sure is that he is intellectually honest. He strives for emeth whether that takes him in a makil or a machmir direction. For example, similar to the Briskers he doesn't hold by neighborhood eruvim, he holds that one should stand with fet together for the chazarath hashatz, he helds that the halacha of yashan and chadash is obligatory in hutz laaretz. thsoe who have their doubts about the Rav should tune in to his audio-shiurim at www.machonshilo.org

  31. I'm very glad to hear that people are following R' Bar-Hayyim properly (although I must ask; whenever you post a comment, is the link to machonshilo.org required? ;) )

    I never meant to imply that R' Bar-Hayim himself is not intellectually honest, just that many of the people I hear quoting him (which does not include his two followers here) tend to do so only when it suits them.

  32. 'We can deal with korban pesach without changing a minhag of kitniyot.'

    I believe it is actually not possible. If the issue of eating or not eating rice on Pesach is accompanied by ad-hominem attacks and a complete unwillingness to yield to a new reality then a Korban Pesach is entirely out of the question.

    I recently listened to R. Bar Hayim's shiur on the subject and to date, I have not seen a cogent answer to his halachic claims.

    R. Haim Vilozhin writes in his perush on perkei avos that it is asur to listen to rabbanim when you have evidence that contradicts their stated opinions.

    So, with humility, until someone can offer a defense against the sources that R. Bar Hayim brings at length, with equal reasoning to support them, there is no reason to continue a minhag that for many has become a badge of honor, and for others is an unsubstantiated minhag due more to inertia than a level-headed reason based halachic principle.

    It is not a hang up to bring this issue to light. One should be able to engage in this discussion to clarify this and bigger items facing us today, without incurring wrath, angst and reactions that simply rest upon wishful thinking and the fear of impending doom if we succumb to eating corn on Pesach.

    By the way, I find it interesting that many non-Orthodox Jews who eat in treif restaurants would not eat beans on Pesach; very strange.

  33. jewinjerusalem said "You are wrong for bringing up this non-issue. Kitniyos is 100% assur [according to your minhag]. There is no room for negotiation. It has the force of neder. rafi, I think you should get yourself some new friends. I certainly wouldn't eat in their house all year round. They decide halacha on their own, and not based on shulchan aruch."

    Dear Jew in Jerusalem, your comment that Kitniot is 100% assur is completely wrong. Your slander on the Kashruth of our homes is insufferable arrogance and slander. But don't worry, I would never want such an arrogant, ignorant person like as a guest in the first place.People like you are the reason so many Jewish youngsters go off the derekh.

    And as far as the Shulhan Arukh, it says clearly that Kitniot are Mutar.

    So what are you talking about?

  34. Mike Miller said "They're talmidim of R' Bar-Hayyim, or they follow his psak about kitniyos?

    Were they talmidim of his before his kitniyos psak? Are they machmir where he's machmir?"

    The vast majority of his talmidhim that I have met do not pick and choose.

    I think that it unfair to simply assume that we choose his Quloth and disgard his Humroth.

    Don't just assume that. It is not true.

    And most of the people that I have met dropped Qitnioth not because of living easy but because of the Rav's philosophy of Jewish Unity and Intellectual Honesty.

    Thank you very much.

  35. I guess I should be glad that many of the people cheering on R' `Bar-H_ayyyimm for his fresh approach to getting rid of dead weight in our mesorah and for sticking-it-to-the-man do not reflect his true talmidim.


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