Tough Beans: Kitnyot on Pesach

(NOTE: This post was originally posted on Times of Israel in 2015 and is reproduced here with minor changes)

Yes, once again, it is that time of year again, wherein the battle lines are drawn on the subject of Kitnyot. For the uninitiated, a short explanation is in order.

While eating chametz (leavened items) on Pesach is strictly prohibited by Torah law, the Rabbinic authorities in some communities over the past many centuries forbade the use of legumes (Kitniyot), such as beans, rice, corn, etc. for various reasons. In very general terms, these restrictions were NOT adopted by Sefardic communities and mainly affected Ashkenazic Jewry. (Yes, there are many “shades” to this description, but, as I said, this is speaking in fairly broad strokes.)

While in Chutz La’aretz, the debate among Ashkenazim does not seem to be that strong in trying to over-turn this particular custom, in Israel the “battle” rages on. In Israel, there is a very large Sefardic community and in tens of thousands of households there are married couples of Sefardic and Ashkenazic origins. This has led to a large push in many circles to attempt to change the rules of Kitnyot and (in the words of one Facebook site) “liberate” Ashkenazim from the yoke of Kitniyot.

While the debate continues, I wish to share here my discussion with a Torah giant, HaRav Nachum Rabinovitch, shilt”a, Rosh HaYeshiva of Birkat Moshe in Maale Adumim. A number of years ago, I asked him to discuss with me the topic of Kitniyot. While he is not in favor of stopping this custom, he did make some VERY interesting points regarding the use of items that are marked לאוכלי קטניות בלבד (“Only to be eaten by those who consume Kitniyot”). This is what I was told and, with his permission, I have shared this every year since:

An item marked לאוכלי קטניות בלבד that is made prior to Pesach and the Kitniyot in the product is LESS than 50% of the mixture and the Kitniyot is not recognizable, then Ashkenazim MAY in fact eat these items with no problem, at all. That means, if you pick up a cup of yogurt so marked, that yogurt, assuming it contains less than 50% Kitniyot and falls into all the above-mentioned criteria, may be eaten by an Ashkenazi on Pesach. He is also of the opinion that Canola Oil (לפתית) is NOT considered Kitniyot and MAY be used on Pesach by all.

Please feel free to share this post with others. Please do NOT use this post to debate the pros and cons of Kitniyot. There exist many forums in which that can be done.

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One thought on “Tough Beans: Kitnyot on Pesach

  1. And let’s not forget peanuts! In Lithuania/Russia, peanuts were a Pesach treat. Reb Moshe mentions this in a teshuva (OC III:63) as well. He says that if you don’t have a minhag on peanuts specifically, there is no reason to avoid them.

    Liked by 1 person

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