We are not stricter with kitniyot than we are with the five cereal grains, so whatever is acceptable regarding these grains is kosher for kitniyot, too. Thus, kitniyot that have not come into contact with water, or that have come into contact with water but were not left for more than 18 minutes before being cooked (like matza), may be eaten. Some poskim are stringent in this respect, but most are lenient.
The poskim disagree about oils and whiskeys made from kitniyot. The lenient view is that the kitniyot prohibition does not apply to oil extracted from them, while according to the stringent view, kitniyot oil has the same status as kitniyot that may not be eaten according to custom. There is a middle position that asserts that if the kitniyot had been rinsed in water (for example, as part of the malting process) they become forbidden, and the oil extracted from them is prohibited. However, if they are ground and made into oil without having been moistened, they are permitted.
Soybean, cottonseed, and canola (rapeseed) oils are not included in the prohibition. Many are stringent about soybean and canola oils, but whoever wishes to be lenient may be so. The widespread custom regarding cottonseed oil is to be lenient.
Lecithin extracted from rapeseed and added to chocolate is not included in the kitniyot prohibition, though some are stringent.
Chocolate and candy that contain kitniyot that are batel be-rov, even if they are labeled “Kosher for Pesaḥ only for those who eat kitniyot,” may technically be eaten even by those who do not eat kitniyot, because the kitniyot in these products are added before Pesaḥ and are batel be-rov. In addition, these products generally contain kitniyot oils, which, according to several leading poskim, are not included in the custom to prohibit kitniyot. In practice, however, since many people are stringent in this respect, kosher certification agencies label them as kosher for Pesaḥ only for those who eat kitniyot.
The Rishonim also debate whether or not scalding works for kitniyot, since scalding any of the five cereal grains technically eliminates the possibility of its leavening, though the Ge’onim agree that no one knows how to scald grains properly (SA 454:3). However, according to Or Zaru’a 2:256, since the prohibition of kitniyot is a custom, it is permissible to eat scalded kitniyot, while Mordechai and Rabbeinu Peretz’s glosses to Smak §222 are stringent.
. Terumat Ha-deshen §113 explains that oil extracted from kitniyot is prohibited because the kitniyot are first malted. This is also the opinion of Rema 453:1. The implication of Terumat Ha-deshen is that if the kitniyot were not malted, their oil would be permitted. R. Yitzḥak Elḥanan Spektor in Responsa Be’er Yitzḥak §11 rules even more leniently, explaining that if the kitniyot were checked to ensure that no grain seeds were mixed in, the oil extracted from them is permitted, since the act of checking proves that the person is familiar with the prohibition. Similarly, Responsa Emek Halakha §134 permits whiskey distilled from kitniyot, as the prohibition applies to kitniyot themselves, not the liquid extracted from them.
Conversely, other Aḥaronim maintain that oil extracted from kitniyot is prohibited even when the kitniyot are not malted (Nishmat Adam §33 and Avnei Nezer OḤ §373). However, Terumat Ha-deshen and Rema imply that such oil is permissible. This raises an apparent difficulty, since the oil will eventually be mixed with water, a process that would be forbidden to apply to grain. Thus, according to these authorities, the custom is to prohibit kitniyot in their seed and flour state, but not in their oil state. One need not be concerned that grain kernels got mixed in with the kitniyot, which would turn to ḥametz when the extracted oil is mixed with water, since any oil extracted from the grain is batel be-shishim and is not ḥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaḥ (SA 447:4). Additionally, it appears that even liquid that is exuded by grain does not become ḥametz, as explained in Oraḥ Mishpat §§111-112 and Responsa Marḥeshet §3. Tzemaḥ Tzedek permits this for poor people, provided that the kitniyot did not come into contact with water while in seed form.
Rav Kook has a well-known ruling (Oraḥ Mishpat 108-114) in which he broadly permitted sesame oil since not only are the seeds not malted, but the oil is also fried, which would prevent cereal grain from becoming ḥametz and is certainly enough to alleviate the problem of kitniyot. This idea is echoed by Avnei Nezer OḤ §533 with regard to rapeseed oil (this responsum appeared in 5458, 11 years before Rav Kook’s responsum). The Ḥasidic-Ashkenazic rabbinical court in Jerusalem vociferously opposed Rav Kook without any regard for the honor of Torah or of all of the poskim who had previously ruled even more leniently than Rav Kook on this matter. Rav Kook responded to them sharply, with erudition, and with strong proofs. As part of his response, he wrote (p. 123): “In truth, the path of my righteous and ingenious mentors, may their merit protect us and all of Israel, whom I merited to serve, was not to incline toward stringency when it was possible to be lenient, especially regarding issues without a strong basis in the words of the talmudic Sages. It is sufficient that we do not budge, God forbid, from the customs we accepted at the guidance of our rabbis, the poskim. But as for the details that can be argued one way or the other, certainly one who inclines toward a lenient ruling in an effort to be wise and benevolent is praiseworthy, as long as his words are based on the profundity of halakha and sound reasoning…” Furthermore, one who adds prohibitions to a prohibition that is not rooted in the law may violate a prohibition implied by a positive commandment (“lav ha-ba mi-khlal aseh”) according to Rashi’s comments in the first chapter of Beitza. As Rav Kook wrote (p. 126): “That which the Talmud often states, that we do not make decrees on top of other decrees, is derived from the following verse: ‘You shall safeguard My observances’ [‘u-shmartem et mishmarti’ – Vayikra 18:30]: make safeguards, i.e., enact decrees, for My observances, that is, for the Torah. But do not make safeguards for safeguards; do not make decrees upon decrees.” Against the claim that we must be increasingly stringent nowadays, Rav Kook writes: “I know the character of our contemporaries well: it is precisely when they see that everything that can be permitted based on the profundity of halakha is permitted, they will understand that when we do not permit it is based on the truth of Torah law. Consequently, many people will adhere to the Torah and heed the words of the Sages, God willing. On the other hand, when they discover that there are things that can be permitted according to the letter of the law, but the rabbis were not sensitive to the travails and hardships of the Jewish people and leave these matters in their prohibited state, it will cause a terrible desecration of God’s name, Heaven forbid. Ultimately, there will be an increase of outbursts saying about core elements of the Torah that if the rabbis want to permit it, they can; thus, the law will be perverted” (p. 126).
Based on this, technically, even if the sesame would be moistened, the oil that comes from it would be kosher for Pesaḥ, for halakha follows the lenient view with respect to laws that are based on custom. However, this contradicts the principle of equating kitniyot with grain, and it is proper to follow this principle. Therefore, I wrote in the main text that we follow the middle view, which is the prevailing halakhic view.
. Soybean oil is produced without moistening the soybeans, so according to Rav Kook and most poskim it is not forbidden. Even if the soybeans would be moistened beforehand, the principle is that we follow the lenient view with respect to laws that are based on custom. Furthermore, it is questionable whether soybeans were even included in the prohibition of kitniyot, since they did not arrive in Europe until about 100 years ago. Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:63 states that only what has customarily been accepted as prohibited is included in the custom. This is also the opinion of R. Dov Lior, the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Kiryat Arba.
Regarding cottonseed oil, Mikra’ei Kodesh 2:60 is lenient, citing a ruling attributed to R. Ḥayim Soloveitchik of Brisk. Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato (16:4) rules leniently in the name of R. Moshe Feinstein. However, Minḥat Ḥinukh 3:138 is stringent.
Peanut Oil: We learned in section 4 above that in Greater Lithuania the custom was to eat peanuts, as per Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:63, since only items that are known not to have been eaten because of kitniyot are prohibited. Peanuts, which were discovered later on, were not included in the original prohibition. On the other hand, Mikra’ei Kodesh 2:60 and Ḥelkat Yaakov §97 prohibit peanuts but permit peanut oil. This is also the opinion of Melamed Le-ho’il OḤ §88. Seridei Esh 2:37 also echoes this idea, and quotes that Avnei Nezer OḤ §383 prohibited peanut oil. Practically, if one is unaware of a family custom to be stringent, he may be lenient, since this is an unclear custom.
. The Badatz is strict about lecithin derived from rapeseed. However, according to halakha, the prohibition of kitniyot does not apply, as there are many uncertainties that mitigate toward leniency. Firstly, rapeseed is not a legume (the technical meaning of kitniyot), but a member of the Brassicaceae family of crucifers, whose fruit grips the stalk and whose seeds grow in pods, much like the mustard plant. Oil is extracted from these seeds. According to Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:63, we do not forbid anything that was not explicitly prohibited by custom. Additionally, it is debatable whether the status of kitniyot can be applied to the seeds of a plant when it is clear that the plant itself is not kitniyot. However, according to Avnei Nezer OḤ §373, rapeseed oil is considered kitniyot, just like mustard (although even according to Avnei Nezer, if one boiled the seeds they would be permissible, as explained in §533). Moreover, we already saw that there are opinions that permit oil produced from any type of kitniyot. According to Maharsham 1:183, rapeseed oil is kosher for Pesaḥ since the oil is extracted without malting the seeds, and we have seen that most poskim are lenient in these situations, akin to the case of sesame oil. Finally, the oil is batel be-rov before Pesaḥ. According to Be’er Yitzḥak, any oil that was added to a mixture before Pesaḥ is batel. Ultimately, when there are so many uncertainties regarding a custom, we rule leniently. This is the ruling of R. Mordechai Eliyahu, as cited in Responsa Ama Devar 1:62.
. According to Rema 453:1 and MB 9 ad loc., even if kitniyot were mixed in on Pesaḥ, they are batel be-rov, although clearly one may not do so le-khatḥila. In this case, the mixing took place before Pesaḥ, and not for the purpose of nullifying the prohibited ingredients in the majority of permissible ingredients, since they may be eaten according to Sephardic custom. Therefore, since they were batel be-rov before Pesaḥ, the mixture may be eaten on Pesaḥ. Additionally, R. Yitzḥak Elḥanan Spektor writes in Be’er Yitzḥak §11 (quoted in n. 4 above) that the prohibition of kitniyot does not apply to kitniyot oil that was checked before Pesaḥ. This is the opinion of R. Lior and R. Rabinovitch.
- Lior also rules that string beans and fava beans in their pods are kosher for Pesaḥ, since in this state they are considered vegetables and not kitniyot. They were never included in the original prohibition since all of the concerns that were mentioned as the reason for the custom of kitniyot never applied to them. In practice, many people avoid eating them, but one who wishes to be lenient may do so.