[Avodah] Kitniyot

Kenneth Miller kennethgmiller at juno.com
Thu Mar 28 09:08:28 PDT 2013

R"n Chana Luntz shared some very instructive insights into what it is like to see various minhagim both as an insider and as an outsider, and I thank her for that. Such stories are very important, and have helped me develop empathy (which I understand to be far better than *sympathy*) for people in various situations. (My many conversations with a Deaf friend are in the same category.)

She also wrote:

> 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.

I have never seen or heard any of this. There is indeed a dual nature to *matza*, which commemorates both the poor bread that we ate as slaves and also the hurried bread of the Exodus. But that's very different than what you seem to be writing about, which has more to do with a feeling of deprivation resulting from chametz being forbidden. To me that sounds like an awful corruption of many mussar shmoozes I've heard, in which chametz is described as a haughty food, one which causes egos to be inflated like the dough. We eschew that haughtiness on Pesach, in an attempt to rein in our egos, but only for one week per year, lest we descend too far into self-negation.

But I do not feel deprived on Pesach. Nor have I ever. Sure, it can be difficult to find something to eat. But to those who are used to Hilchos Kashrus the rest of the year, this is just a little trickier. That's how *I* see it, anyway. When my kids or friends start kvetching about how they are jealous of the sefaradim who have so many more options, I gently remind them, "You realize of course, that the non-gebroks crowd says that same thing about YOU." I also point out that if one is hungry or thirsty on Chol Hamoed, even in the most non-Jewish area one can usually find a convenience store which has bottled water and fresh bananas.

> But while the levels of deprivation 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, 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.

I concede that as a child, I was indeed very frustrated breakfast-time. But that is an unfortunate by-product of the Pesach restrictions. No one WANTS to feel deprived, and no one WANTS to place further restrictions on our choices. (There are many, it is true, who have such a fear of chometz that they prefer additional cutbacks over the risk of mistakes.)

But I do realize that we are human, and if one lives among other who have fewer restrictions, a certain amount of envy is probably inevitable. The way my family tries to deal with it is not by loosening the restrictions, but by reveling in them. For example, there are several favorite recipes my wife has, and there's no reason why these recipes can't be used during the year. But when the kids request those dishes in July or January, her response is, "But then it won't taste as special on Pesach."

I suppose the bottom line is that for over 30 years (kein yirbu) I have been living with someone who has no restrictions at all about where to eat on Sukkos. I do confess to occasionally being a little jealous of her for that, but it doesn't cause me to see Sukkos as a holiday of deprivation. But that's just me.

I hope that I have not offended anyone in this post. If I did, I apologize. It's just that some of what I've been hearing and reading lately seems pretty extreme, and I just don't get it.

Akiva Miller
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