Efrat – Rabbi Eases Restrictions of Kitniyot for Ashkenazi Jews


    Efrat – Trying to ease the life of Ashkenazi Jews who observe the dietary laws of the upcoming Passover holiday, an American-born Orthodox rabbi recently issued a halakhic ruling expanding the menu of permitted food products during the weeklong holiday.

    According to Ashkenazi custom, the consumption of legumes and other non-wheat grains, known as kitniyot, during Passover is forbidden because of a resemblance to hametz, leavened grain, which is strictly prohibited on the holiday. Since most Israeli Jews who observe the holiday’s dietary laws are of Sephardic descent, and thus do not have this custom, many kosher for Passover products in the country contain kitniyot, such as rice, corn and beans. In recent years, a growing number of Orthodox Jews – especially Western immigrants to Israel – have started rebelling against the kitniyot ban, arguing they are adapting to the Israel’s mainstream practice because the ban is a custom and not law.

    A few week’s ago, Rabbi Zvi Leshem, of Efrat, issued a ruling that it is permissible to consume products and dishes containing kitniyot, as long as they do not constitute the main ingredient and are not directly recognizable. His decision will help those who do not want to entirely abandon the tradition of avoiding kitniyot but have difficulties finding certain items – such as oil, mayonnaise or chocolate spreads – that do not contain kitniyot in their ingredients.

    “Some of those products that are labeled ‘for those who eat kitniyot only’ are permissible according to all opinions, since the ratio of kitniyot ingredients is less than 50 percent and they are therefore annulled in the majority of non-kitniyot ingredients,” writes Leshem, 54, who was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate and holds a PhD in Jewish philosophy from Bar-Ilan University. “Since only products are forbidden in which kitniyot constitute the main ingredient, many oils, cookies and dairy products containing kitniyot are completely permissible for Ashkenazim.” In addition, he permitted quinoa, the grain-like crop which is “a very new food” unknown to the sages who enacted the ban on kitniyot.

    “It is a mitzvah [commandment] to publicize this decision, which is based upon the traditional Halachic methodology of the great authorities throughout the generations, and not upon looking for unnecessary stringencies,” Leshem concludes.

    “I tried to show that certain things that people think are prohibited are really permitted,” Leshem, who lived in Cleveland and Indianapolis before he immigrated to Israel in 1979, told Anglo File this week. He said he used to avoid products labeled “for those who eat kitniyot only” for many years before looking into the matter.

    “It is very misleading, certainly for Anglo olim [immigrants] who are not used to the whole issue. The obvious thing that most of them do is avoid anything that says kitniyot. But that’s in many cases unnecessary.”

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      • One of the most damaging things that Reform did is that it created a hypersensitivity to change in the Torah-true community. Not every proposed leniency is “Reform Movement” -based. I don’t base my activities or ask “shailas” on the basis of what Abraham Geiger or Samuel Holdheim would have thought!
        For a Rav to pasken l’kulah is, C’V, not the same as saying that halacha doesn’t apply in the modern world.
        The benefit you have in your position is that you don’t need to go to your Rav: every shaila you have is simply answered “assur.”

        • Wrong! There is a fundamental difference between a Rov who rules leniently and a rabbi who throws minhogim and (don’t let’s kid ourselves) complete halochos out of the window. I bet if anyone were to carefully question this character from Efrat and hear what he has to say on all sections of the Shulchon Oruch, he would either be revealed as a total ignoramus, or worse, a reformer (small ‘r’) that would send any Orthodox person running.

          • Don’t know about R’ Leshem, but you certainly have revealed yourself as a “total ignoramus”. As far as I know, R’ Leshem is Yorea Yorea and certainly qualified to pasken. His psak may be contraversial but certainly withing the gedorim of normative halacha. R’ Bezalel Rudinsky, shlita, is fond of saying that if kol haTorah kulah was al pi minhag, observance would be universal.

      • Learn a little and you’ll see this rabbi has plenty to rely on. Start by searching the terms “קטניות בטל ברוב”. Just because you didn’t see it in your home or a mass circulated pesach guide doesn’t mean it’s beyond the pale.

      • “It’s only 8 days anyway, what’s the big deal?”

        This is not a halachic argument. Show me one prominent posek who talks this way. Not only is not halachic, it’s anti-Halachic-
        Are we going to do away with the מצוה of שמחת יום טוב ?
        Don’t forget:אי לא האי יומא דקא גרים, כמה יוסף איכא בשוקא

        Don’t forget that every arbitrary stringent interpretation of kitniyos brings you closer to the real chumra of chometz. See R’ Yakov Emden.

    1. I hope this guy gets a visit in his sleep from the great ashkenazi gedolim who assured kitniyos! Maybe that will wake him up?!

      To my s’fardi friends and you know who you are, you have a minhag to eat the stuff and that is perfectly fine. By all means, keep it up! Just remember to check each grain three times before eating it.

      • Kitnios, in general, do not required examination as they cannot possibly become chametz. Only grains of the chameshes haminim can be chametz.. I know that sepharadim who eat rice examine the grains and discard broken ones but I don’t know why.

      • What made them so great? The fact that they were quicker to ban than to bless? Good for Rabbi Leshem– it’s about time we got past the belief that every single ruling by every so-called “gadol” of the past needs to be preserved forever. And why do people like you seem to think you have a right to pasken for the world? The Sephardim need you to tell them that their minhag is “perfectly fine,” as long as they remember to “check each grain three times?” Something about yeshiva education seems to turn otherwise normal little boys into snobs who are convinced that only they and their rebbes understand the Torah and Judaism.

    2. While Leshem might sound way off, he isn’t. There clearly is president for some of what he is saying. For example, The minhag of kitniyos was not enacted on extractions of kitniyos. 40 years ago almost everyone used canola oil. Additionally, quinoa is a non-rising protein/grain that the OU says to ask the opinion of your rabbi aboutas it may be permitted. The issur on corn is also questionable as the chachamim were not goizer on foods that didn’t exist in their part of the world. Jews did not ever see maze until about 400 years ago.

      • The Mechaber of Shulchan Aruch R’ Yosef Karo was born 1488, Toledo, Spain; R’ Moshe Isserles (Rema) was born in 1520. The Shulchan Aruch was written in 1563. Christopher Columbus brought corn to Europe August 1493. Its hard to fathom that 70 years after Columbus brought corn to Europe that people wouldnt know of its existence.

        • It may be hard for you to fathom but it’s true nevertheless. Spain had no contact with eastern Europe and information thraveled very slowly. While your chronology is correct, and Colombus did bring back corn to Spain fom his early voyages, It was unknown in Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East untill years after the Shulchan Aruch was written. The R’ma never saw corn or potatoes.

      • I suspect the main reason that corn (maize) was assered is because “corn” sounds like “korn” which is Yiddish for rye which is, of course, one of the five species.

      • The main problem I see with kitnios is defining it. Kitnios is usually defined as “legumes” but, clearly, that is incorrect. Many foods are considered Kitnios that are certainly not legumes, corn for instance, and some legumes, like alfalfa sprouts, are not kitnios. Also, why are corn and peanuts kitnios but potatoes aren’t. You can make flour and bake bread (sort of ) from corn and potatoes but not peanuts. All three were introduced to Europe from the New World in the 16th Century C.E. and were unknown in Europe before then. Quinoa, another New World grain was non-kitnios a few years ago but is now generally considered to be kitnios, why? Also, why on earth are string beans kitnios?

    3. He is 100 percent correct. So many of these minhagim have no relevance to today’s world where people know what they are eating and “appearences” are not a concern since food labeling and information available on the internet as so accessible. Its not clear the ban on kitniyot was warranted in eastern europe and it certainly has no basis today.

      • The Reform Movement also claimed that some halachos weren’t relevant anymore in their times. You are no better than them. Kitniyos isn’t a plain minhag or chumra. It’s hundreds of years old and brought down in the Rema in Shulchan Aruch, for G-d’s. Does Shulchan Aruch have “no relevance” in your mind?

        • This is a very interesting comment. You write “brought down in the Rema in Shulchan Aruch… Does the Shulchan Aruch have ‘no relevance’ in your mind?” I’m just an am ha’aretz but I always thought that the Shulchan Aruch was written by Yosef Karo; I thought that the Rema just added some hasagot, you know, those words in Rashi letters. Now the Rema is mamash part of the Shulchan Aruch! Wow! I’ll have to enquire of my Sepharadi neighbors if they accept your ruling.

    4. while it is true that Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, poskenned the same as this (in our local yeshiva, they drink regular coke from all year round on Pesach because Rav Moshe said that it is muttar), however Chassidim and other Ashkenazi Charedim should really still be machmir. It’s only 8 days anyway, what’s the big deal? Also, it is an insult to the tzaddikim who kept these minhagim, like the Chassidishe Rebbes, who were aware of the reasons to be matir, but understand that there is also a chiyuv of “al titosh toras imecha”. If someone has a minhag they still have to keep it even if the reason doesn’t apply anymore, as is clear from the fact that we still keep Yom Tov Sheni Shebgalios.

      • Chassidishe Rebbes, who were aware of the reasons to be matir, but understand that there is also a chiyuv of “al titosh toras imecha”.
        really now, so when are they going to all start davening ashkenaz, stop the nareshkeit of upsherin, and return to the yekkish way of living? after all they dont stray from toras imecha. though i guess thats only after the besht, but before him, well who cares about that.

    5. I heard Rabbi Belsky say that now days rice companys such as Carolina rice use wheat to process rice .He said that even Sephardim should not use rice.on Pesach.

    6. 1) How much is this actually a chiddush? R’ Moshe Feinstein held that kitniyot derivatives (oil, for example) were not kitniyot. The description of what they’ll be able to eat (which more or less would allow oil, or corn syrup, or things like that) sounds an awful lot like that psak.

      2) Many rabbeim don’t consider quinoa to be kitniyot. The Star-K and CRC both hold that it isn’t, for example. In addition, R’ Moshe Feinstein also held that adding kitniyot to the list is something we should not do.

      • It’s a well tread topic. Do a search for קטניות בטל ברוב. You’ll find a lot of material. Also check out the entry on chametz in אנציקלופדיה תלמודית which has a section on kitniyot. Rav Gedalia Felder z’tl has an essay on the topic in one his seforim- get it at hebrewbooks.org. Have fun!

    7. A wise Rav I know said that if you rearrange the letters of minhag it spells gehenom.

      Quinoa, which I have been eating for years, is technically a grass not a grain. The rabbeim in at least two major kashrut organizations approve it because we don’t add new kitniyot to the list. After all, we are lucky to eat potatoes. The rabbis in Europe almost banned that, but stopped before they realized there is nothing to eat. Two brands are accepted for Pesach because they do not process wheat in the same facility.

      People have strange minhagim on Pesach. But if you understand the history, you’ll see that some of it is nonsense in today’s educated world. For instance, I have heard some people won’t eat turkey. Not because it’s traif. But they hold by not having the mesorah for proper slaughtering of that bird (granted this is a year round thing).. Some Polish yidden don’t eat garlic. Why? Back in the old days garlic was used to keep mice away from the wheat.

      Corn was based on an incorrect translation. Maize and cornmeal are two different things. One is a vegetable; the other is actual chameitz. The translation was wrong.

      • you explanation of the reason for not eating turkey is wrong. The bird itself has no mesoira, not the slaughtering. Halocha gives an exact description of where to slaughter, that applies (or can be applied) to any animal or fowl. The problem with turkeys was that since it was a newly-discovered bird, it had no mesoira and thus is forbidden by a ruling in the Talmud. Many great poskim forbade it for that reason, but it quite quickly came to be accepted – after careful scrutiny of its habits – and today only relatively few families had a minhag not to eat it.

        • One of the simanim for birds is that it is not a “doreis”–i.e., kill another bird.

          The Shalo Hakodosh says that he saw turkeys being “doreis”–therefore he assur’d turkeys. That is the origin of those who do not eat turkey–not because of mesora but because of the p’sak of the Shalo Hakodosh

          • Where are all of you former Vineland and Freehold chicken farmers? We know that chickens will attack and eat each other, that’s why we “beak” them. Turkeys are mor docile than chickens.

          • Check out in Yoreh Deah 82 – Anyone who can identify the forbidden birds may eat any other bird. However, since this is not usual, the Talmud rules that no bird may be eaten without a mesoires. A mesoires means that it has been accepted in that area that a particular bird is kosher – accepted that is, by responsible Torah scholars. Hence the requirement to investigate the habits of a bird over a period of time. The Author of the Sheloh z”l lived between 1560-1630 – the period that turkeys were under investigation, and he was one of those who prohibited them. Subsequent scholars could not replicate his findings and the bird was permitted. Except that some families have retained the tradition not to rely on the ruling.
            If you had read my previous post carefully, you would have seen the same explanation.

      • The minhag of Polish (and Ukrainian) Jews not to eat garlic isn’t necessarily because they used it to keep the mice away from wheat. The reason I heard was that the local farmers used to dip the garlic in flour to make it look whiter when they took it to market. This was a real concern for actual Chametz, as opposed to many of the other, more far-fetched, chumros people have adopted over time.

        BTW, once they came to the US, where the flour concern was not a problem, my grandparents had no problem using garlic. There is no need for a concern based on a real chashash to turn into some holy “minhag” that can’t be changed once the original reason does not apply. It would be sort of like someone who filters water in New York City saying that they need to use filtered water only when they visit Israel, because their “minhag” is to use only filtered water.

        an Israeli Yid

    8. Granted, it’s only 8 days. But if it’s a minhag and not a halacha, one should be able to eat. I cringe when someone tells me kitniyot is assur. No, it’s a decision made years ago.

      BTW, when my dad lived in Israel in the late 1940’s early 1950s the ashkenazic rabbis permitted kitniyot for at least one if not more than one Pesach. Why? There was not enough meat and the government of Israel restricted it because they wanted the herds to grow. Interesting side story… his community needed meat. So they brought in a shochet to slaughter a cow first according to halacha. Then they pretended the cow was hit by a truck so the non-religious inspector wouldn’t rat them out for killing one too many cows. Different world.

      Today we know what’s in our foods, where it comes from, and what is or is not chameitz.. I hope kitniyot will go the way of the dinosaur.

      • Correct. There are precedents in Ashkenazic history way before our last generations when there was a scarcity of food and kitniyot were permitted. This pseudo and quite anachronistic issur should go the way of the dinosaur, except for two issues. One, the yeshivishe will not let that happen. Two, they don’t believe there ever were dinosaurs.

    9. My father has a serious medical condition, is not allowed to fast yom kippur; and has problems digesting matzah, and still my rov had to look to see if there’s a heter for my father to eat rice (were askenazim) b’shas hadchak. Many people dont understand what keeping a minhag brought down in shulchan aruch means………

    10. Corn, as we know it, did not exist in Europe at the time of the ban on kitniyos, they had what we call maize, a corn like thing that was good for animals. It was not until Colombus found America that corn as we know it was discovered. So why should a fresh head of corn be banned is beyond me, but I am not a rabbi to make a change.

      • I think you have your terms mixed up. Maize is the American Indian name for what is commonly referred to as “corn”. “Corn” or “kern” in Europe is a catch-all term for grain (hence the English folk character John Barleycorn). The word “kernel” is derived from this.

        BTW, corn is grows in ears, not heads.

      • Maybe because the minhag developed over time. One thing does seem clear- that the minhag has been “sealed”. That’s why poskim who ban quinoa come up with arguments to show that it belongs in existing categories of kitniyot.

    11. rice and kitniyos are two different things.

      Ashkenazim don’t eat rice based on our Mesora coming from Eretz Yisroel and the Gemora in P’sochim and Yerushalmi Challo–Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri saying that “Orez Machmetzes”–that rice becomes chometz.

      Even though he was a da’as yochid, for Pesach we are concerned even with a da’as yochid.

      Since he lived in Eretz Yisroel and our Ashkenazi halochos came largely from Eretz Yisroel (as opposed to the Sefardim, whose halochos came through Bovel)

      As for kitniyos, I never really understood the rational or the historical reasons, but for the 8 days involved, let’s not get ourselves worked up to find heterim on a very old minhag. [personally, I can do without beans and peas all year round, but give me mustard for my Pesach flanken 🙂 ]

      Canola is the Canadian name for Rapeseed–short for Canada Oil–I guess the name rapeseed doesn’t sound PC.

      Chag Kosher v’same’ach

    12. what is the big deal Sephardiem eat it, so to say it is assur or like the reform moment or eating chumatz is nonsense and shows one lack of halacha, and someone who only knows how to repeat things like a parrot

    13. No one who is concerned about minhag will take any notice of this guy who is simply trying to make out he is something he is not: a genuine posek.

    14. As with many other issues of halocha or minhag, the argument here is not really about the matter at hand. It’s about whose rebbe is more frum, which one is more reliable, and who is and is not an am ha’aretz or – C”V – a Reformer. It’s all politics and it’s ridiculous.

    15. you dinosaurs can do what you want …. I started eating Kitniyot years ago. If it’s Kosher (for Pessach) for Sephardim, then it’s KOsher enough for me!

    16. This is an uphill battle. Though this is a long-standing minhag, there is historical wiggle room. There is much precedent for kitniyot derivatives being consumed on Pesach by Ashkenazim. There is precedent for ignoring the minhag completely in the Ashkenaz community (eg. The Rosh at the turn of the 14th century).
      Additionally, the minhag has expanded to include corn which is not only not a legume, it is a monocot, rather than a dicot (the two biological orders of flowering plants) which is the group containing beans. The expansive definition includes all beans as forbidden regardless of whether they can be made into flour (string beans). Now some try to include quinoa.
      If expansion has not been ruled out, why is contraction a problem? Especially contraction back to widely held norms.
      This is not reformation of halacha, it’s merely questioning the application of minhag. Judaism is not a static religion. We are not Samaritans. We apply halacha based upon knowledge, not ignorance.
      If you who disagree, I’ll point out that since matzoh can be ground up to make a substance that can be used to bake something breadlike, it too could be forbidden.

    17. An halachah we cannot move an inch but a chumrah is up to each generation to elaborate on the chumra if its till a chumrah or a kullah, thats not reform. here is a perfect example, We must understand the core principal of the chumrah. The reason why the previous Ashkenazim gedolim baned kitniyos was to avoid the grocery shelves should look like our groceries today (made with potato starch). This is a joke and doesn’t make any sense, this chumrah became the biggest kullah, shame on us, The Sephardi community is laughing their heart out. thats our kitniyus today. I would rather eat a good bean soup than products that look like cumets but made from potato starch. wake up guys.

      BTW I see alot of commentators here are confusing the word minhug and chumrah their is a big difference but here is not the place for that Kitniyus is a chumrah that has a reason behind it as explained.

    18. I daven to Hashem. It says about Metzora to go to the Kohein or your time. Why your time; because you might think since he isn’t Aharon Hakohein it isn’t the same. We accept our tradition and do not change them The reform start with davening in German, mix seating and it went down hill from there. No kashrus, no tarahas Mishpaich. [excuse the spelling] to intermarriage. I can live without beans, rice, corn for 8 days; I can live without Pizza for 10 days [don’t stand in line for 1 or 2 hours Motzei Pesach to get a pizza. We are Yidden, we stood at Sinai, we spent 40 years in the desert and we will do what Hashem says. We are stronger than we know and we will stand strong to be a Jew

      I heard Rabbi Belsky say that now days rice companies such as Carolina rice use wheat to process rice .He said that even Sephardim should not use rice.on Pesach.

      • Don’t spread nonsense. The Jersey Sefardic Orthodox Rabbinate has a number of approved brands of rice in its 2011 Pesach guide. The only issue is with ENRICHED rice, not plain rice.

    20. We have to take care not to trample on precious minhagim. Why are we following those minhagim? Because our grandparents did, that’s why!!! we’re not in the position to make a cheshbon whether it is or isn’t applicable nowadays. Minhagim that were passes on for generations turn law! Let’s hold onto our minhagim because those will keep us firmly connected until Moshiach comes!

    21. This is right out of the JSOR pesach guide for Sefardim ONLY:
      Rice: White Rice: Any unenriched or organic rice is acceptable. Lundenberg, Rice Select and–very easy to check Super Lucky Elephant brand from Costco, or Golden Elephant Brand, sold on Ave. U, along with Sugat brand from Israel. Nishiki brand medium grain is not enriched.
      Most supermarket brands of rice are enriched. The enrichment is diluted with starch in order to distribute it evenly on the rice. This can be a corn, rice or a wheat starch base. Care must be taken to buy only rice that has enrichment that is not mixed with hames. We have consulted with Major Sephardic Poskim who have instructed us that the enriched varieties that are mixed in a non-hames starch are permissible.
      The following brands were checked and are acceptable: Ancient Harvest, Carolina, Goya, Mahatma, Publix, River, Riceland, Blue Diamond, WaterMaid, Success, Carolina Gold (parboiled) and Uncle Ben‟s.
      Brown rice: Any brand without additives. Basmati: Deer Brand or any unenriched. Pure wild Rice: (looks like short black sticks is acceptable without a marking: it is from the grass family, not a legume at all.


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