3. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaĥ

In general, there are two fundamental approaches to kashrut on Pesaĥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ĥametz on Pesaĥ 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 ĥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ĥametz on Pesaĥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ĥametz, it is kosher for Pesaĥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.

However, Ashkenazic Jews are customarily very strict about ĥametz, 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 poskim are careful 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 ĥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ĥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.

This explains the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulĥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatĥila, 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 Shulĥan 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 ĥozer ve-ne’or (see above 7:4), SA rules that the ĥametz does not “reawaken,” taking the lenient approach in the case of a rabbinic law, whereas Rema rules strictly that ĥametz in a dry mixture  “reawakens,” though not in a fluid mixture. 2) In 447:5, regarding a food that was not guarded for Pesaĥ but there is no indication that it may have become forbidden for Pesaĥ: according to SA it is kosher, and according to Rema it is not. 3) In 447:10, regarding ĥametz that is noten ta’am li-fgam: according to SA and most poskim, it is kosher on Pesaĥ (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 koshering utensils: according to SA, we determine the method based on the main use of the utensil, and according to Rema we determine the method based on the most severe usage. 5) In 451:11, regarding koshering a frying pan: according to SA, it may be koshered in boiling water (hagala), and according to Rema, it is koshered in fire (light libun). 6) In 451:16 and 17, regarding koshering ĥametz pounding and kneading utensils: according to SA, they are koshered via hagala, and according to Rema, they are koshered 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 ĥametz. 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 Ĥasidim is to prohibit gebrokts.

[4]. Some Sephardic poskim are stringent like Rema, as Kaf Ha-ĥayim states in 447:86, 88, and 119. Also, Zekhor Le-Avraham states at the beginning of the laws of Pesaĥ that the Sephardim have the practice to be stringent like Rema “to the extent that when it comes to Pesaĥ, 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).