03. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaḥ

In general, there are two fundamental approaches to the laws of kashrut on Pesaḥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ḥametz on Pesaḥ are no different than the laws of all other forbidden foods, with one exception: all other forbidden foods are batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant when constituting less than one sixtieth of the volume of a mixture), whereas ḥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ḥametz on Pesaḥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ḥametz, it is kosher for Pesaḥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.

However, Ashkenazim are customarily very strict about ḥametz, often showing concern for a stringent opinion even against the lenient majority and practicing caution where general halakhic principles indicate no reason to do so. Nevertheless, Ashkenazic custom also places a limit to its stringencies, and care is taken not to pile restrictions upon existing restrictions. The general tendency, though, is to show concern for every uncertainty. The basis for this approach is the Sages’ ruling that even a drop of ḥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ḥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.

This is the root of the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulḥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatḥila, for the stringent opinions. Nonetheless, in cases of pressing need Rema adopts the lenient approach, since halakha fundamentally accords with most poskim.[3]

In general, Sephardim follow Shulḥan Arukh and Ashkenazim follow Rema. However, some Sephardic poskim tend to be stringent, and their rulings are accepted in some Sephardic communities.[4]


[3]. Here is brief overview of the major disputes between SA and Rema: 1) In 447:4, regarding the dispute among the Rishonim about ḥozer ve-ne’or, since it is an uncertainty about a case of rabbinic law, SA rules in accordance with the lenient view that it is not ḥozer ve-ne’or. Rema rules strictly that ḥametz in a dry mixture “reawakens,” though not in a fluid mixture. 2) In 447:5, regarding a food that was not guarded for Pesaḥ but there is no indication that it may have become forbidden for Pesaḥ: according to SA it is kosher, and according to Rema it is not. 3) In 447:10, regarding ḥametz that is noten ta’am li-fgam: according to SA and most poskim, it is kosher on Pesaḥ (especially since the uncertainty relates to a rabbinic law), and according to Rema it is prohibited. 4) In 451:6, regarding the proper method for kashering kelim: according to SA, we determine the method based on the main use of the kli, and according to Rema we determine the method based on the most severe usage. 5) In 451:11, regarding kashering a frying pan: according to SA, it may be kashered in boiling water (hagala), and according to Rema, it is kashered le-khatḥila in fire (light libun). 6) In 451:16 and 17, regarding kashering ḥametz pounding and kneading kelim: according to SA, they are kashered via hagala, and according to Rema, they are kashered via light libun. 7) In 453:1, the well-known custom of kitniyot. 8) In 462:1, regarding egg matza: according to SA, it is kosher, and according to Rema, we are concerned that perhaps a drop of water mixed in with the fruit juice, causing it to become ḥametz. Rema states in 462:4 that we are only lenient in extreme cases, for sick people. 9) In 467:9, regarding whole, uncracked kernels of wheat or barley that are found in a cooked dish: according to SA, the dish is permissible, and according to Rema, it is prohibited. 10) In 467:10 and 447:1, regarding a cracked kernel of wheat that is found in a cooked dish: according to SA, one may sell the dish to a gentile, excluding the value of the wheat kernel, and according to Rema, he must burn the entire dish. 11) The custom of the Ḥasidim is to prohibit gebrokts.

[4]. Some Sephardic poskim are stringent like Rema, as Kaf Ha-ḥayim states in 447:86, 88, and 119. Also, Zekhor Le-Avraham states at the beginning of the laws of Pesaḥ that the Sephardim have the practice to be stringent like Rema “to the extent that when it comes to Pesaḥ, we are Ashkenazim.” This is echoed by additional Sephardic poskim. On the other hand, in extenuating circumstances even Rema rules to be lenient in accordance with SA (in most cases).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
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The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman