07. Extenuating Circumstances, the Sick, and Babies

Even in Ashkenaz it was clear that the custom to refrain from kitniyot is not as severe as eating ḥametz. Therefore, under pressing circumstances like drought or famine, leading halakhic authorities permitted eating kitniyot. In actuality, rabbis have often disagreed whether the need was pressing enough to permit eating kitniyot. Some rabbis were inclined to be lenient, others to be stringent, and still others to permit kitniyot to the poor alone, requiring the wealthy to buy other types of foods. On such matters, one must follow the ruling of the accepted local rabbinic authorities.

Some Aḥaronim write that when applying these leniencies to kitniyot, it is better first to permit kitniyot that do not resemble cereal grain, and only permit rice, millet, and buckwheat when there is no choice (Nishmat Adam). Additionally, several Aḥaronim state that when applying these leniencies, one should first scald the kitniyot in boiling water, since scalding prevents even cereal grains from becoming ḥametz. Even though in practice we do not permit scalding cereal grains on Pesaḥ (see above, 2:7), when it is necessary to be lenient with kitniyot, it is best to take precautions to the degree possible (Ḥatam Sofer OḤ §122; MB 453:7).[9]

One who is ill and needs to eat kitniyot may do so, even if he is not dangerously ill. For example, someone suffering from constipation may swallow flaxseed with water as a laxative. One may likewise feed kitniyot dishes to children who need it (Ḥayei Adam 127:6), though it is proper to set aside special kelim for this. Anytime one acts leniently, the kitniyot should be thoroughly inspected to ensure that they contain no cereal grains.


[9]. Ḥayei Adam (127:1) permits eating kitniyot in truly extenuating circumstances, like if one has nothing else to eat. See also Nishmat Adam §20 and Mor U-ketzi’a (which asserts that ideally the custom of kitniyot should be abolished altogether). Ha-mo’adim Be-halakha’s chapter on kitniyot states that Teshuva Me-ahava, Ma’amar Mordechai, and Mahariz Enzil maintain that one may not eat kitniyot even in an extreme situation. Conversely, Maharim Padua of Brisk (§48) permits kitniyot in extenuating circumstances. Divrei Malkiel 1:28 and Sho’el U-meishiv 2:4:158 rule leniently for poor people only. Ḥatam Sofer OḤ §122 does not oppose the lenient authorities but notes that they should require scalding the kitniyot before eating. Nishmat Adam §20 states that one should first permit kitniyot that do not resemble cereal grain, and only as a last option permit those that resemble grain. MB states that one may certainly be lenient in extenuating circumstances and cites Ḥatam Sofer and Ḥayei Adam that scalding is required before eating. AHS 453:5 states: “They explicitly accepted that if there would be famine and the poor would be starving for food, all of the local sages, led by the chief rabbi, would permit kitniyot on that Pesaḥ.”

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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

Editor: Nechama Unterman