The difference between Sephardi and Ashkenazi dietary customs on Pesach is testimony to the richness and variety of Jewish tradition. While all Jews refrain from products that have a concern of Chametz, Ashkenazim add a significant range of foods to avoid on Pesach. These fall under the category of kitniyos.
In a previous article we outlined the origin and basic parameters of the customary prohibition of kitniyos on Pesach. As we saw, and as Ashkenazi Jews know well, the custom is broad in its range, including foods such as beans, buckwheat, corn, lentils, millet, mustard, peas, poppy seeds, rapeseed, rice, sesame seeds, soybeans and sunflower seeds. While these foods are not chametz, they fall under the kitniyos category, and therefore are prohibited, by force of custom, for consumption on Pesach.
In the present article we will discuss a number of halachos concerning kitniyos on Pesach. Of course, kitniyos do not have the same severity as chametz; they are prohibited by custom, not a Torah law such as that which forbids chametz on Pesach, leading to many questions about possible leniencies. Is it permitted for sick people to consume kitniyos? Can they be given to children? Must one be wary for beliyos of kitniyos? And what is the halacha for kitniyos that were mixed into other foods?
These questions, among others, are discussed below.
Equal to Chametz?
By contrast with actual chametz, the custom to refrain from kitniyos applies only to eating.
It is permitted to keep kitniyos in one’s property over Pesach (or even to buy kiyniyos during Pesach), and it is even permitted to derive benefit from kitniyos over the festival, since the customary prohibition applies to eating alone. Thus, one may use kitniyos for all non-eating purposes, such as fuel for candle lighting and heating, or for pet food. These rulings are mentioned by the Rema (Orach Chaim 453:1).
For some matters, however, the laws of kitniyos are similar to those of chametz. For instance, Shut Shevet Halevi (Vol. 3, no. 31, citing Chok Yaakov) rules that the prohibition against eating kitniyos begins at the same time as the prohibition against eating chametz. Not all agree with this. The Maharsham (Daas Torah 453) permits consumption of kitniyos until the evening of Pesach itself.
However, the general custom in this matter s to be stringent, meaning equating kitniyos to chametz concerning the timing. Note that the prohibition against kitniyos applies in chutz la’aretz even on the eighth day of Pesach.
Contact with Water
Another question of equating kitniyos to chametz relates to the question of kitniyos that have not come into contact with water. For chametz, it is of course permitted to consume wheat products that have not been in extended contact with water—such as the matza we eat on Pesach. Is the same true of kitniyos, or is the custom of refraining from kitniyos a blanket prohibition, which does not follow the same guidelines as the prohibition of the five species of grains on Pesach?
The Terumas Hadeshen (no. 113) writes that the prohibition against kitniyos does not apply when they were not in contact with water, since the custom relates to the prohibition against chametz (deriving from a concern that people will confuse kitniyos with chametz), and therefore it does not stand to reason to be more stringent concerning kitniyos than concerning chametz itself.
Several later authorities follow this ruling, and are lenient concerning kitniyos, which have not been cooked or soaked in water (see Shut Maharsham 1:183; Shulchan Aruch Harav 453:5; Chayei Adam 127:1; among others). This approach also emerges from the wording of several Rishonim, who write that the prohibition applies only to cooked kitniyos.
However, the wording of the Rema is inconclusive in this matter, and some Poskim are stringent concerning all kitniyos, even those that were not in contact with water. See for instance Shut Maamar Mordechai (no. 32) Shut Avnei Nezer (no. 373, 533), and see Sedei Chemed (Chametz Umatza 6, 1-2).
This discussion is relevant to eating peanuts on Pesach. The custom in most communities today is to be stringent on this matter. Since peanuts generally do not generally come into contact with water we see that the prevailing custom is to be stringent on this matter.
Kitniyos for Children and the Sick
Children who need to eat kitniyos, people who are ill, and people whose diet is otherwise restricted and must eat kitniyos, are excluded from the custom and may consume kitniyos (after consulting with a Rav).
This halachah is relevant to baby formulas and nutritional supplements, which often contain kitniyos, and are used by people who don’t have non-kitniyos choices. It is likewise relevant for children (and sometimes adults) with gluten-related allergies, whose choice of Pesach foods is severely restricted.
However, when it comes to healthy adults, the custom of refraining from eating kitniyos is treated stringently.
Emphasizing the stringency of the matter, Shut Teshuvah Me’havah (no. 259) writes that even if the Beis Din of Shmuel HaRamati or Eliyahu HaNavi were to reconvene, they would not have the jurisdiction to permit kitniyos. The Maharil (Hilchos Pesach 25) also writes with great stringency on the matter of kitniyos.
Thus, even when one family member is permitted to eat kitniyos, it remains forbidden for other family members to consume those foods.
Beliyos of Kitniyos
When a family member is eating kitniyos on Pesach, can the same pot be used for regular Pesach foods? In other words, is there an issue of beliyos (absorbed taste) for kitniyos on Pesach?
The custom is to be stringent even concerning kitniyos utensils, and one who must prepare kitniyos on Pesach should use separate utensils and not regular Pesach dishes. This is ruled by Shut Maharam Schick (no. 241) and by other Poskim.
Thus, if Pesach dishes were used for kitniyos, there should not be used in the same year for Pesach foods (Kaf Ha-Chaim 453:27; Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, cited in Erev Pesach Shechal Be-Shabbos Chap. 8, note 4; Halichos Shlomo Pesach p. 88). However, they can be used the next year, without needing to kasher the pot.
Mixture of Kitniyos
While, as noted, the custom is to treat kitniyos with some stringency, one important and far-reaching leniency concerning kitniyos relates to cases in which kitniyos were mixed in with other non-kitniyos foods. The Rema writes that, by contrast with chametz where even a single crumb renders the entire mixture forbidden, for kitniyos, if some kitniyos fall into a mixture, the mixture remains permitted, provided the kitniyos is in a minority (there is no need for the usual 1-60 ratio).
The Darkei Moshe mentions the source of the this halacha as the Terumas Hadeshen, who is lenient in the matter, unlike the stringent opinion of the Maharil.
Later authorities agree with this leniency, permitting mixtures of kitniyos provided the kitniyos remain a minority of the mixture. These Poskim include the Chayei Adam (127:1), the Aruch Hashulchan (453:6), the Peri Megadim (464:8), and the Mishnah Berurah (453:9). The Shulchan Aruch Harav (464:2) adds that the leniency does not apply if the main part of the food is kitniyos.
This means that some products that are marked “only for those who eat kitniyos,” are permitted for consumption even by Ashkenazim, since the kitniyos within them is nullified as a minority.
While it is not permitted to annul kitniyos intentionally, the Taz (Yoreh De’ah 108:4) rules that buying a product in a store is not considered an intentional nullification, so that doing so will not involve any level of prohibition. Additionally, because the products are marketed for Sephardim, there is no prohibition involved in the manufacturer’s adding the kitniyos to the mixture, and therefore no consequential prohibition in consuming them (see Chok Yaakov 453:6).
On a practical level, one should not rely on such products unless there is some need, and a Rav should be consulted before doing so.
A significant question among Poskim relates to whether kitniyos derivatives, such as corn or peanut oil, are considered part of the custom and thus off limits for consumption over Pesach.
Some authorities, such as Shut Maharsham (1:183), permit the oils of kitniyos (shemen kitniyos) on Pesach, provided the kitniyos did not come in contact with water, and the oil was produced before Pesach. The reason for this is that the prohibitive custom only applies to forms of the kitniyos that share the characteristics of grain but does not apply to liquid extracted from kitniyos.
This leniency is not widely accepted, and the selection of kosher-for-Pesach oils is therefore quite limited, though oil from olives, palm, coconut and walnuts are acceptable for Pesach use. Cottonseed oil presents a special case, because the fruit from which the oil is extracted (cottonseed) is not edible. Shut Minchas Yitzchak (Vol. 3, no. 138, sec. 2) suggests that cottonseed oil is kitniyos, yet reconsiders his position in a subsequent teshuvah (Vol. 4, no. 114, sec. 3; see also Mikra’ei Kodesh, Pesach Vol. 2, no. 60, who rules leniently and also cites from Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky who was lenient). Rav Moshe Feinstein also was lenient (See Siddur Pesach Kehilchasa (16 footnote 26)) and that remains the custom in the United States.
While the common custom in the United States is not to consider cottonseed oil as kitniyos, in Eretz Yisrael many refrain from using it and that was the custom of Rav Eliashev (Kovetz Teshuvos (3, 81)) and Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo (4, 17)). Canola oil involves similar yet slightly different questions; while there is no firm decision on the matter, the common custom is to refrain from using it.
Sweeteners and Other Derivatives
Today, many products in the food industry, including a number of artificial sweeteners, are made from kitniyos (in particular corn).
Because the final product is so far removed from the original kitniyos, most authorities maintain that there is no concern in using them for Pesach. This is known as kitniyos shenishtanu, and the discussion of this matter bears a close resemblance to a similar discussion of grapeseed (non-kosher) derivatives, which are discussed at length by Poskim (see Pischei Teshuva, Yoreh De’ah 123:20; Shut Chelkas Yaakov, Yoreh De’ah 50; Chok Yaakov 467).
Another important point in the matter of derivatives is that the prohibition does not apply to cases in which the kitniyos are not processed with water—which is common for many derivatives.
May we all enjoy a chametz-free (and generally kitniyos-free too) Pesach!