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Mar 24, 2013

Why I won't be eating Kitniyot, or many other things, this Pesach

Each year in perhaps the past 7 or 8 years there has been a serious increase in the number of articles, and the promotion of them, discussing why kitniyot should be allowed nowadays even for Ashkenazi Jews  at least in Eretz Yisrael. This year I seemed to sense less of a discussion about kitniyot and fewer articles and arguments, though I also seemed to sense, without taking a survey or a poll, an increase in the number of Ashkenazi people I am in contact with that are eating kitniyot on Pesach.

I personally have found the logic in the arguments very compelling. Despite that I will not be eating kitniyot on Pesach. At least not this year, and I doubt I will change that tradition until there is a mass acceptance by a consensus of rabbonim on the matter.

Pesach is all about tradition. Some people do the craziest things on Pesach out of tradition. Pesach is all about doing crazy and unusual things, many of which have become tradition, just so that the "children will ask". We do things different on Pesach. We do not just do what is logical and what makes sense. We even have the main feature, or one of them at least, of the Pesach seder of children asking why we do things so differently on pesach, and the answers are not very specific. The answers talk about slavery and freedom, not explain why we dip or recline. There is something about doing things differently on pesach.

Does the ban on kitniyot make any sense nowadays? Perhaps not. An argument can easily be made that the time for such a ban is long gone, at least in Eretz Yisrael. But why must I break with a tradition that is hundreds of years old? Just to eat some hummus on pesach, or maybe some rice? Is there anyone out there that cannot survive a week without hummus or beans or rice? I know I can, and I have no interest in breaking a tradition that is hundreds of years old just so that I will be able to smear some hummus on my matza.

More or less, this is the same reason why I do not eat all the foods that have been around in the past 10 or 15 years that are made to replicate "real" foods, such as Pesach rolls and Pesach pasta and the like. I enjoy eating Pesach food for the week. The point of the holiday is to be different than the rest of the year, and I am fine with the food reflecting that. As I said about kitniyot - I can survive a week. It is just a week, not forever. And as someone said to me, our grandparents, and even more so their grandparents, did just fine for the week with far less than what we have available to us. A week without kitniyot or rolls is easily survivable. It is definitely, in my mind, not worth giving up hundreds of years of tradition for the payoff of a bowl of rice.

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  1. If you're not eating kitniyot because of a minhag that's hundreds of years old, why not eat kitniyot because of halacha that's thousands of years old. In other words, our ancestors ate kitniyot before it was banned - why not follow their example?

  2. there is no mitzva to eat hummus or rice or garbonzo beans. it was allowed like any other food besides for chametz up until the rabbis banned the legumes. We follow the rabbis as well as following the written torah, and since they do not oppose each other in this instance it is not even a question.

    As I said, the reasons for dropping the traditional kitniyot ban are compelling, especially in Eretz Yisrael. But I do not find myself pressed to do it. I can survive the week without hummus and without rice. So, until the rabbis overwhelmingly decide the ban is outdated and irrelevant, I do not feel pressure to follow the few individual rabbis who permit it.

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  4. I am not saying that living in the remote outpost of Yiddishkeit that my family and I occupy offers me or mine any sort of הקלה בדיני פסח, but it does make our lives just that more interesting and challenging than those of our brethren in London or Manchester, for example.

    There is one delicacy I shall miss at our Seder tables this year and that is eating our very first "Jersey Royal" steamed potatoes as כרפס. They simply are not yet ready for "lifting" from our rich, seaweed-fertilized, island soil, much to my 3-year old grandson's chagrin. Last year he simply adored the taste of our home-grown (and unique to these islands) and his first סדרים.

  5. Rafi, if it's about tradition (which seems to be as strong a basis as any), it should eliminate certain "new" kitniyot such as peanuts and even canola, and you should actually hold like most of the Tzohar rabbis for ashkenazim - which seems to be extremely meikil while still keeping the minhag in place.

  6. I think it's less about eating rice and bamba, which I rarely do anyway, and more about that most of our Ashkenzi friends do not have access to the badatz food supermakets like Osher Ad, Yesh Chesed, BarKol, etc... Most have not discovered that in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod, and Bnei Brak supply very large supermarkets with great prices and a lot of the food is kitniyot-free. Most Ashkenazim seem to shop at the regular places which mainly have kitniyot food, because the factories don't go the extra mile to find alternatives.

    Given that, the list of leading dati-leumi rabbis permitting limited 'kitniyot' like Canola Oil, seems to be growing, not sure about permitting outright legumes.

    And bonus, it is a treat to come across an Ashkenzi non-religious who keeps this tradition. These people also shop at the regular chains, but don't whine like the religious people do to find some heiter. I know that many of our overseas friends will keep KfP and non-kitniyot, but it is incredible to find a non-religious Israel also insist on keeping a tradition of his past.

  7. i see the minhag lessening as part of the am yisrael coming together. we all know couples where one is sefardi and one is askkenazi. many of these couples will eat kitniyot or will lessen the minhag somehow.

    in the car the other day, a bunch of people were saying that when they were young, it was a given that during pesach you don't eat out, period. now, it is completely accepted. and this eating out includes going to your sefardi friend's home and eating everything, except the kitniyot.

    however the basic minhag will stay in place IMO.


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