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Apr 17, 2011

Why I Don't Eat Kitniyot On Pesach

Why don't I eat kitniyot on Pesach?

Good question.

The truth is that the logic employed by Rav Davvid Bar-Hayyim (or however he spells it) makes sense to me. Jews have come back to Eretz Yisrael, and we should be adopting the minagim of Eretz Yisrael, which were always predominantly sephardic in origin, except for a small period of time where some communities have imported the customs from the students of the GRA.

It has always bothered me why, for the most part, our minhagim are stuck in Poland/Germany/Morocco/Iraq/Yemen/Hungary of 100 and 200 years ago. Why does the Jewish community of New York not have its own minhagim that when people moved there they should have adopted into a uniform minhag? Why only in the communities of Europe did everyone keep 1 uniform minhag?

mmm, can't live a week without it!
I know the answers of mobility, and that the people in Europe stayed put for hundreds of years, often in little towns, while cities in the western world were suddenly populated by Jews from all over, etc. None of them are very satisfactory. A city like New York (one example, but applies to all cities) should have had a local minhag, and anyone joining the community should have adopted the local minhagim (communal minhagim at least, if not personal as well).

So, in essence, I am open to the concept of people moving to Eretz Yisrael and adopting the local minhag. The problem with it is that it is only in concept. in practice it is not done, and there is no longer any uniform local minhag. For anything. Every community has sub-communities, where each keeps its own minhag from way back when, and in each sub-community there is plenty of diversity as well.

So it is kind of difficult to say that we suddenly adopt the local minhag by kitniyot, when we do not do so for just about anything else. I mean, those who eat kitniyot, do they daven nusach sefard (some daven "nusach eretz yisrael" which Rav Bar Hayyim has reprinted)? Do they put on tefillin like safrdim? do they do anything else like sefardim? It seems to me that to just pick kitniyot as the issue that you will use to adopt local customs with is disingenuous.

That being said, I have no problem with Rav Bar Hayyim paskening that way, or with his talmidim following his psak. It seems to me to be wrong that suddenly many people choose to follow a rav they follow on nothing else, and probably have no idea about anything else he says. But that is their choice, and I say that for me to adopt such a custom, to eat kitniyot against my minhag, against the original takana that was accepted among those from where my minhagim originate, would be wrong.

And to me, I see no reason to go against the takanas chachomim for one week of eating rice and chumus. I can refrain for a week.

To take the discussion a bit further, I have said I have no problem with Rav Bar Hayyim (or other rabbonim who have followed suit recently) and his students coming to this conclusion and eating kitniyot. Everyone can do what is good for them.

What does irk me, a bit, is that instead of publishing his psak in halachic and Torah journals, where he would generate discussion among rabbonim and communities, he publishes his psak in newspapers such as Yediot Acharonot and Haaretz.

So, instead of having the world of rabbinics and halacha debate the issue, he publishes his psak in secular newspapers where people who don't know much, who don't keep much (and some who do), will like what they read from him because it is getting rid of an old restriction and follow suit, even though they barely keep anything else, and definitely have no idea who he is or what else he talks about. He is encouraging people who have no ability to debate the merits of his case to go against their commonly held custom. At least those who don't eat matza on pesach keep it to themselves and don't promote it among the general public.

Furthermore, he so holds he is right that he even invalidates rabbonim from being able to pasken otherwise by saying their appointment as community rav is invalid. So anybody who argues with him can be ignored, because they have no right to pasken otherwise.

Again, I have no problem with him paskening to eat kitniyot, and I have no problem with those who follow him eating kitniyot. The logic makes sense to me, but there are too many conflicting issues that make me personally uncomfortable with it. And I see no reason to go against the takana with all that on the plate. My problem is with the way he encourages other people to go against their psak, or to adopt a new (for them) minhag they know nothing about.

Maybe one day he will generate debate among halachic scholars, and a consensus will be arrived at that says the original takana is no longer relevant, either due to our presence in Eretz Yisrael, or for other reasons, and then I will eat kitniyot as well. Until then, I see no need.


  1. The question of one minhag hamakom in NY was discussed extensively at the time. For that matter, the issue of European Jews adopting minhag E"Y [which is really a bit of a misnomer, if you look at the sizes of the yishuv before the late 1800s vs. the Aliyah that took place after it] was also discussed at the time.

    I also agree that I'd prefer discussions in techumim, etc., and not newspapers. Or if Machon Shilo stressed that they attempt to re-instate classic minhag E"Y vs. "whose groundbreaking psak permitted kitniyot...".

    I wonder when they'll be as adamant about abolishing the heter of non glatt (and "glatt" that's not chalak bet yosef) as they are about abolishing a chumra of kitniyos.

    Not holding my breath...

  2. I discovered recently that in 1989, the Israeli onservative movement unanimously passed a resolution eliminating the minhag of Kitniyot for Ashkenazim in Israel (original Hebrew and English summary). What's interesting about this, is that the halachik arguments, which seem to be in line with those used by the Conservative movement to do away with other halachot, are remarkably similar to those used by Rav David Bar-Hayim and Rabbi Zvi Leshem (except for the whole "galut mentality" business, which I don't really think is halachically based, and, if valid, could be used to write off a number of other minhagim which are more or less universally adhered to).

    This is not to say that those who permit kitniyot are Conservatives, but it's instructive that the Conservative movement did start out as a religiously-right response to the Reform movement, and has slid to the left since. Abolishing any minhag may lead us down a slippery slope to a place that many of us would never dream we'd find ourselves.

  3. I hear what you are saying. I guess as long as they are not giving the issue the opportunity to be debated in a halachic forum, then the slippery slope issue is real. If it was being debated and considered properly, then that would worry me less.

  4. There may be overlap with Conservative, but to attribute any significance to that is, IMHO, just as non-halachic as calling something wrong because it's galuti ;)

  5. The abstention from kitniot became a binding ruling when rabbis decided that housewives cannot be trusted with them. Kitniot, when ground, look like flour and the stupid housewife/woman who cooks may confuse between the two flours and use, God forbid, wheat flour instead. So to remove any possibility of any mistake, the rabbis ruled: no kitniot!

    Apparently Sephardic rabbis have more confidence in the acumen and awareness of their women folk than Ashkenazi rabbis do.

  6. Mikeage,

    My intention is not to throw a pure "guilt by association" sucker punch, but to point out that RDBH and others are using the same methodology employed by the Masorati movement over 20 years ago to do away with a minhag.

    If the Masorati movement would have first come up with this in the age of the internet (while still beating RDBH to the punch), it would have been widely disseminated with as their idea. There's little doubt in my mind that any serious Jew considering himself Orthodox would have gotten behind it. I think that the only reason it took off the way it did, despite having non-Orthodox roots, is because the Masorati responsum was relatively obscure at the time.

  7. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we don't see a big push to adopt the "minhag Eretz Yirsael" and say slichot for the whole month of Elul.

    When that happens, I will no longer question the motivation of people who promote the concept of universal minhag once a year.

  8. Rafi,

    You shouldn't give this guy any credence. Don't mention him. He is megaleh panim b'Torah shelo k'halacha. Did you hear the recent shiur from R' herschel Schachter of YU? He speaks very strongly about listening to gedolei Torah. The ga'ava of Bar-Chayim and Leshem is unprecedented. Those that give him PR are aiding and abbetting.

  9. Rafi, I think the bottom line is minhag hamaqom vs. minhag avoth.

    My understanding is that there is no halachic support for the power that Jews now place on minhag avoth.

    There are several misused sources to support it (TY Arachin "minhag avothehem referring only to 2 days of yom tov, "minhag yisrael kehalacha" misuapplied, and several others), but that's all.

    I have pressed RBH to present him case for minhagei hamqom overriding any previous notions of minhagei avoth (for which there have been several psychological and sociological reasons to follow, but not halachic ones), and that evidence of the minhagim which existed in Eretz yisrael 1000 years is sufficient to begin re-establishing minhagei hamaqom. Yet, he does not currently see this as necessary, anymore than what he is already doing. I will continue to press him on this, as I believe it will answer many questions and raise some additional questions which need to be discussed and debated.

    In the meantime, I will leave with a quote from him, I heard personally:

    "There is no hovah to eat qitniyoth during Pesah."

    Hag Kasher weSame'ah!

  10. Ribbi Dhawidh bar Hhayeem always struck me as just a wee bit too Wahhabist for my liking.

  11. 'Maybe one day he will generate debate among halachic scholars, and a consensus will be arrived at that says the original takana is no longer relevant, either due to our presence in Eretz Yisrael, or for other reasons, and then I will eat kitniyot as well. Until then, I see no need.'

    I can not tell you how many 'halachic scholars' I have approached over the years who could care less about the subject. They are more than happy to remain unflinching and unchanging on a myriad of subjects, kitniyot included. The reason you should eat kitniyot in my opinion is that there is no reason not to. Rice is quite yummy.

  12. Noga,

    what's ironic about your sarcasm is the only reason we are allowed to eat in another yids home is because there is a mashgiach we trust. In most if not almost every case, that is the wife! yet for kitniyot, she'd become confused? chumra judaism constantly makes me laugh. what is even funnier are the people who try to spin these things to sound logical.

  13. ehwhy,

    while noble in iodea, the fact is many jews lead their lives in such a manner. how many use so many heterim of R' Moshe, yet use timers on shabbos, for which he was against? the fact is as Jews we look to make our lives easier and more comfortable, while looking to rely on a generally accepted authority. unfortunately, RRBH isn't widely accepted for whatever reasons and so, the O world has not gotten behind this en masse.

  14. ehwhy,

    another thought, by starting to eat qitniyot, we are not "accepting" anothers minhag, but in fact, simply returning to our most basic halachot!

  15. shaya,
    Who is RRBH?

    While others may not, I try to be consistant to the best of my abilities with how I follow the Torah. My Rabbi considers himself to be a "meat and potatoes" type of Rabbi. Decisions are made following the halachic process. It is important not to shop around for the answers I like. Trust me, I have had some tough shilohs in recent weeks.

    I am not quite sure how rejecting my minhag is a return to basic halacha. What other cases would such logic apply?

  16. ehwhy,

    I find it admirable that you manage to follow one rav through thick and thin. But, even many rabbonim ask other poskim for a collection of answers to glean from their reasons to create their own, or just find out the general consesus. So rigidly following one rav isn't really a rule.

    What I meant by returning to halacha is this: The halacha was x is chametz and y is not. As one item became questionable, they accepted to avoid it under the term kitniyot. by returning to the basic and start eating kitniyot, you are not taking on someone elses minhag, you are returning to the original halacha that the item was really kosher l'pesach to begin with. as opposed to one day waiting 3 hours and the next day waiting 6. That is a change in minhagim.

  17. Shaya,
    It is important to follow a Rav, who is able to adjust for multiple variables. My Rabbi has been stumped on a number of occasions and referred to the appropriate Gadol.

    Chacham Tzvi has been getting a lot of play in the last little while.

    I had a Rabbi in Yeshiva who every year at the start of the Seder, his FIL would clop on the table and announce the family minhag is to eat gebrochs. Then they wouldn't.

    Kitniot is not Chametz. That doesn't mean I should intentionally try to eat it or throw away a minhag not to eat it.

    You forgot to answer the RRBH question.

  18. I'm not gonna eat kitniyot during passover, then have to atone by dojung an entire month of Slichos!

    Besides, no mater how long I lay out for, I just can't get tan enough to be a sefardi!

  19. Anonymous -
    Don't lump Rabbi Bar-Hayyim and Rav Leshem together, they're saying totally different things. Rabbi Leshem is saying that Ashkenazi minhag allows Ashkenazim to eat foods that contain kitniyot that cannot be seen and is not the majority of the food; Rabbi Bar-Hayyim is suggesting doing away with the minhag altogether and eating any kind of kitniyot (something Rav Leshem does not recommend).

  20. Noga -
    I've heard a lot of reasons for the minhag of avoiding kitniyot on Pesach before, but never that one. Where did you hear that?

    I've heard that there was concern that uneducated Jews (both men and women) would be confused if they saw scholars/rabbis/etc using what looked like flour. But that's only one explanation; most explanations have to do with the differences between how farming and trading was done in Europe vs. the Middle East (eg. crop rotation vs. no crop rotation, using the same bag for multiple products vs. not).

    Bottom line, nobody knows for sure. I don't think it's right to state that it was definitely about mistrusting women.

  21. Just noticed this posting.

    Just wanted to pipe in that Rav David Bar-Hayim is a gaon whose goal is following the Torah and serving Hashem in the most truthful and honest way possible.


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