[Avodah] Kitniyot

Chana Luntz Chana at kolsassoon.org.uk
Sat Mar 23 17:52:45 PDT 2013

RAM writes:

>I did not watch the video, but for the sake of argument, I will concede
that his sources are many and that his >logic is sound.

>But even so, he is in the minority, isn't he? Are there ANY major nosei
keilim or acharonim or poskim who >advocate the wholesale abandonment of
this minhag, for Ashkenazim?

There is only the Chacham Zvi and Rav Ya'akov Emden (quoting his father the
Chacham Zvi) - that he tried very hard to abolish the minhag and would have
done so if he could have got the other gadolim to go along with him.

Of course what is noteworthy about the Chacham Zvi and Rav Ya'akov Emden is
that the Chacham Zvi spent a significant period of time being a Rav in
Constantinople (then mostly Sephardi) and so Rav Ya'akov Emden spent a good
period of his formative years amongst Sephardim.  As a consequence, he
introduced a number of Sephardi customs into Ashkenaz, most notably the
practice of all kaddish sayers saying kaddish together, rather than fighting
over which one of them gets to say it (as was the prevailing practice in
Ashkenazi prior).

>Honestly, I really don't understand the vehemence that I have recently seen
against this minhag, which >Ashkenazim have been following for hundreds of
years. Granted that the poskim often question what is included >in this
minhag, but doesn't everyone agree that Ashkenazim DO avoid kitniyos?

>Have I missed something? Is there a Mishneh Brurah or an Aruch Hashulchan
somewhere which says that there are >some places -- which otherwise follow
the Rama! -- where rice and beans are eaten, and that this practice is

I think that what is happening is a consequence of the intermingling of the
two communities.  Perhaps my own story is in some ways instructive, because
I happen to belong to that very select group, those whom *everybody* agrees
are permitted (and many say required) to change their minhag from not eating
kitniyos to eating kitniyos - Ashkenazi women who marry Sephardi men.

Growing up in Australia amongst an Ashkenazi community, sure I knew that
Sephardim ate rice on pesach, but that piece of information had as much
relevance to me as knowing that Eskimos build igloos.  The only people I
knew who ate kitniyos on Pesach also ate chametz on Pesach (ie they were not

And even when I went to Israel and was faced with the rows and rows of
supermarket shelves amongst which one had to sort for the items that did not
contain kitniyos, that of course is what one did.

But then I met my husband (at an Ashkenazi 18-30 minyan no less - his point
being if he had only hung around Sephardi minyanim in an overwhelmingly
Ashkenazi country his chances of finding someone to marry would be severely

And while the issue of minhagim was a huge one, at least for me, and pretty
close to derailed our ever getting married, luckily there were people out
there like the Bnei Banim who take what in my view is a more sensible
approach to this question than many poskim.  Because while if you come from
Minsk, and he comes from Pinsk, and there are a few minor differences, it is
not very difficult to change over - the minhag differences in our case were
huge, and besides the strain on my sanity, I genuinely believe that it would
have taken me years (and, I confess, I think my knowledge on these things is
somewhat above average) to accurately and properly have made the changes,
and in the meantime I just would have done neither well.

But, one of the points the Bnei Banim made was that you cannot have two food
standards in one household, so while we agreed before we got married that we
would each keep our own minhagim vis a vis davening etc, we also agreed we
would adopt his food standards in the household.  Partly I think because it
was easiest to go the traditional route, and partly because food genuinely
means a lot more to him than it does to me.  He is the one who really enjoys
cooking, and would spend more time in the kitchen if he could.  I am the one
who thinks cooking is so that people can eat and would rather have my head
in a sefer than spend more time in the kitchen.  But adopting his food
standards meant halak beit yosef meat, chazara Sephardi style to a blech on
shabbas .. and kitniyos on pesach.  

So I have looked at life from both sides now .. and I confess I do end up
having a lot of sympathy with my putative relative (the Luntz's lay claim to
Rav Ya'akov Emden, even so far as in the Jewish Encyclopedia, although
whether there is any credence to this claim I don't know).

Because what has happened to an Ashkenazi pesach is that kitniyot  dominates
(and gebrochts even more dominates) - the manishtana really should be:
shebchol haleylos, anu ochlin kol minei kitniyos, halayla hazeh kulo matzah.
In many ways you notice the absence of the kitniyos even more than you
notice the absence of the chametz.  And to the extent you keep it, you
notice the absence of gebrochts even more.

Now one can see this as possibly reflecting two different strands within the
Pesach story - the one being the deprivation of slavery, and the other being
the celebration of freedom.  And the first strand can be seen even more
sharply amongst the Chassidic practices where there seems almost a desire to
find more and more things to go without.

And some of what might be driving this, I confess has only struck me since
we started having Romanian au pairs for our very disabled son.  Because
again, while I knew about Lent, I had no idea how seriously the Eastern
Europeans take it.  Our Romanian au pairs go off all meat and all dairy and
all eggs over this period - so I can really see how a slightly different
form of deprivation would fit right into the zeitgeist in Europe, while the
kind of emphasis on feasting and celebration that is much more a
characteristic of having a much greater range of foods to play with and
which is customary amongst the Sephardim might even have been a bit
offensive to the wider world that Ashkenazim dwelt amongst.  On the other
hand the Muslims amongst whom the Sephardim dwelt have no similar practices
around this time which centre very heavily on deprivation, or any history of
attacking particularly at this time.

But while the levels of depravation seems very normal when you live fully
within an Ashkenazi environment (even where, as in Australia, the non Jews
don't deprive themselves at all), once you live cheek by jowl with
Sephardim, and you see how they celebrate pesach, it doesn't really feel
like such a celebration any more, and somehow I can see pesach feeling more
akin to the three weeks and Tisha B'Av.  And once that feeling has lodged, I
it can be very hard to displace.  That I think, psychologically, is what is
driving a lot of this - Pesach starts feeling like a party to which you
haven't quite been invited, and yet you ought to have been invited.  And yet
on the other hand, those who wish to cling to pesach as it was practiced by
minhag avos, when it really was about deprivation, are struggling too -
because of how clever manufacturing and food producers are these days, so
those who want to practice it like it traditionally was have to keep finding
more and more things to ban to give that deprived feeling of really not
having anything one can satisfyingly eat for breakfast.  So while it may end
up being a clash of paradigms - the paradigm from the Ashkenazi side doesn't
feel as satisfying anymore and that is leading to all this vehemence within
the Ashkenazi community about how to deal with the new reality.  And the
Chacham Zvi/Rav Ya'akov Emden, who really were the only gaonim who grappled
with this dual living in modern times end up at the forefront of the debate.

>Akiva Miller

Shavuah Tov


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