While many Ashkenazim (Germanic or Eastern European Jews) have long considered Sephardim (Spanish/Mediterranean Jews) or Mizrahim (Middle Eastern Jews) lucky for being able to consume rice on Passover, this staple grain may soon be accepted for them as well. As the American diet continues to change (where individuals can choose to be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or vegetarian) there has also been an ongoing debate in the Ashkenazi community about whether to start accepting kitniyot into the weekly Passover diet. Kitniyot (from the Hebrew word for “little things”) is a general category for such foods as legumes, pulses, corn, soybeans, peas, poppy seeds, and even rice, that like chametz (cereal grains such as wheat, or processed foods containing cereal grains such as cake or pasta) have been forbidden by Ashkenazi rabbis for centuries. (While many in the Sephardic world do consume kitniyot, it really varies region to region, such as Moroccans who generally do not consume rice, but may have chickpeas and fresh green beans). Because of today’s stricter labeling and processing requirements, it’s difficult to defend the tradition based on the possibility that a food product could have been contaminated, and the rule against kitniyot is not written in the Torah.
While some are starting to change by embracing rice and beans during Passover, many still prefer sticking to what they were brought up with. (It’s hard to change tradition!)
Here are some interesting and recent articles about the topic,
and the changes that some rabbis in the conservative movements are making.
And another regarding the legality of quinoa.
Many ingredients that are innately kosher the rest of the year, may not be considered kosher during Passover week. While certain foods (such as pasta, cereals, breads, and pastries) are more obviously considered chametz (forbidden) for all, the restrictions for other ingredients vary according to Jewish community. The Ashkenazim are most strict with their rules, and in addition to rice consider all legumes or kitniyot (meaning “little things” in Hebrew) such as beans, peas, corn, and peanuts unanimously forbidden, placing them in the chametz category. In the non-Ashkenazic communities however, the restrictions on specific legumes vary according to community, rabbi, and perhaps even geography or family. Chickpeas are just one of those legumes. Many Sephardim consume all or several types of legumes (in the Syrian world green beans are a Passover favorite, while Egyptian and Moroccans enjoy fava beans), and in Israel one can even find kosher for Passover (KLP) chummus sold in stores. One interesting explanation I heard for this mysterious exclusion is that the word chummus (meaning “chickpeas” in Hebrew — the same word for the popular Middle Eastern spread) sounds too much like the word chametz, so in order to avoid any confusion with the word Ashkenazic rabbis (not as familiar with chickpeas in Europe) decided to forbid it all together. Another reasoning is that these “little things” are often mixed and prepared with grains, or have the potential of being ground up into something resembling flour, which could be mistaken for one of the five grains used in making proper Passover matzah, but this doesn’t make too much sense to me. All forms of potatoes, including potato flour, are accepted by Ashkenazim during Passover without concern that they will be confused for regular flour, so why do legumes pose a risk in this regard? Perhaps it simply comes down to culture and tradition, and since potatoes were abundant and commonly used in Eastern Europe and not chickpeas, then maybe this is the original (and not so technical) reason.
I pose a question to all of you out there:
Do you eat legumes during Passover?
If so, which ones?