Peninei Halakha

Close this search box.
Peninei Halakha > Pesah > 09 – The Practice of Prohibiting Kitniyot

09 – The Practice of Prohibiting Kitniyot

01. The Origins of the Ashkenazic Custom

The ḥametz prohibited by the Torah is produced from one of the five types of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye. Other species such as rice and millet, even if they rise, do not undergo the same fermentation process as the five cereal grains, and they may be eaten on Pesaḥ. Although one Tanna, R. Yoḥanan b. Nuri, maintains that rice is also a cereal grain and forbidden by the Torah in its leavened state, the rest of the Sages maintain that even if rice rises, it may be eaten on Pesaḥ (Pesaḥim 35a). This was the practice of the great Tanna’im and Amora’im. In fact, Rava ate rice at the Seder (ibid. 114b).

During the era of the Rishonim, over 800 years ago, the Jews of the Rhineland would refrain from eating kitniyot[1] on Pesaḥ. Initially, only some communities observed this stringency, but within a several generations the custom had spread to all Ashkenazic communities.

Three principal reasons for this custom have been offered: A) Since kitniyot are cooked in the same manner as grains, in a pot, there is concern that if people cook rice on Pesaḥ they will end up mistakenly cooking forbidden types of grain. B) Since kitniyot, like cereal grains, are often made into flour, if the unlearned masses see pious Jews cooking and baking foods with kitniyot flour without concern for it becoming ḥametz, they are liable to do the same with grain flour as well. The rabbis of the Talmud were not concerned about this because, in their day, Jewish tradition was clear and established. However, the tribulations of the exile and the scattering of Jewish communities gave rise to a fear that some Jews would be cut off from tradition and come to forget what is forbidden and what is permitted. Eating kitniyot on Pesaḥ would cause them to err and eat forbidden cereal grains without taking care that they do not become ḥametz. C) Grain and kitniyot kernels are similar in appearance and are kept in the same storehouses for long periods. It is therefore eminently possible that wheat or barley kernels would find their way into kitniyot, and when the kitniyot are cooked the grain will become ḥametz. This concern persists today, because the same storehouses are used for grain and kitniyot, and they are not usually cleaned out when switching from one species to another. Thus, in fact, when checking different types of kitniyot one can find kernels of grain. This is due to the fact that in order to replenish the fields and soil, crop rotation was instituted: the same field would be planted with grain one year and legumes (which help replenish the soil) the next year. However, plants of the previous crop inevitably remain in the field. Therefore, if a fenugreek crop was grown after a wheat crop, some wheat will sprout among the fenugreek, and some kernels of wheat will be found in the harvested crop of legumes. The same applies to all other species. Experience shows that sometimes the quantity of grain kernels is more than one sixtieth of the entire kitniyot crop. This problem applies to those species of kitniyot that physically resemble cereal grain.

[1]. [Editor’s note: we have refrained from translating the term “kitniyot” since there is no precise equivalent in English, and an imprecise translation would be misleading. In earlier contexts (such as the laws of kilayim, which prohibit cultivating dissimilar species in close proximity), kitniyot referred specifically to members of the legume family, and indeed, legumes specifically were introduced into European crop-rotation systems in the medieval era. As currently used, the category of kitniyot includes species that are not legumes, and not every member of the legume family is considered kitniyot.]

02. The Sephardic Custom

During the era of the Rishonim, all Sephardic communities ate kitniyot and rice during Pesaḥ, though they were careful to pick out forbidden grains. Indeed, R. Yosef Karo writes (Beit Yosef §453) that nobody worries about “such things except for Ashkenazim.” This is the custom of most contemporary Sephardic communities.

However, some leading Sephardic Aḥaronim have written that many pious Jews refrain from eating rice during Pesaḥ because of a case in which some wheat was discovered in rice even after it had been checked several times (Pri Ḥadash, Ḥida). The Jews of Izmir have a custom not to eat rice on Pesaḥ (Lev Ḥayim 2:94), and many Jews of Morocco refrain from eating rice and other types of dry kitniyot on Pesaḥ. In Baghdad, many laypeople did not eat rice on Pesaḥ. For those who eat rice on Pesaḥ, the ruling was that they must first check it two or three times (Ben Ish Ḥai, Year One, Tzav 41). Each person should continue his ancestral custom. Where there is doubt or difficulty in doing so, it is best to consult a rabbinic authority.

Certain spices such as cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek often have grains mixed in and should not be eaten without a prior meticulous inspection.

Nowadays rice is stored in the same packing-houses as flours and semolina. Therefore, those who eat rice on Pesaḥ must buy packages that are certified kosher for Pesaḥ or check the rice thoroughly three times (see Ama Devar 1:62) .

03. Spouses from Different Communities

The following question arises frequently nowadays: What should a married couple do if one spouse comes from a family that refrains from kitniyot and the other from a family that eats kitniyot? A similar matter was addressed by one of the great Rishonim, R. Shimon b. Tzemaḥ Duran (Tashbetz 3:179), who writes that they obviously cannot eat together at the same table while food permissible to one is forbidden to the other. Therefore, the wife must adopt her husband’s customs, for “a man’s wife is like his own body.” We learn that when a Yisraelit marries a kohen, she attains the status of a kohenet, and she may eat teruma. Conversely, a kohenet who marries a Yisrael becomes a Yisraelit, for whom teruma is forbidden. We likewise learn from the laws of kehuna that if the husband dies, and she has no child from him, she reverts to her family custom, but if she has a child from him, she keeps his custom. If she remarries, she adopts her husband’s practices. (When it comes to determining Jewishness, the mother is determinant; if she is Jewish, so is her child, regardless of the father’s status.)

  1. Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OḤ 1:158) adds that the wife’s status is similar to that of one who moves to a place where the accepted custom is different from his own. If he intends to settle there, he relinquishes his previous custom and accepts the custom of his new home (based on SA YD 214:2, OḤ 468:4, and MB 14 ad loc.). When a woman marries, it is as if she moves permanently into her husband’s house, and she must therefore adopt his customs. Accordingly, if an Ashkenazic woman marries a Sephardic man, she may eat kitniyot during Pesaḥ and need not perform hatarat nedarim (annulment of vows).[2]

[2]. Igrot Moshe OḤ 1:158 proves that this is a Torah law from the fact that the Torah exempts a married woman from the obligation to honor her parents, since this mitzva would require her to actively clothe and feed her parents if necessary, and her obligations to her household take priority (SA YD 240:17; obviously if there is no clash between the two obligations, the great mitzva of honoring her parents is incumbent upon her). Thus, according to the Torah, a woman’s place is in her husband’s home.

Igrot Moshe also asserts that she need not perform hatarat nedarim. MB 468:14 implies the same in stating that one who moves from one locale to another must behave according to the custom of the new place. It is implied that since this is the halakha, there is no need for hatarat nedarim. This is also the opinion of Kaf Ha-ḥayim 468:43. Additionally, in extenuating circumstances even Ashkenazic communities did not accept the custom of refraining from kitniyot and can therefore be lenient in situations of famine or sickness (MB 453:7). Similarly, two different customs in one household would certainly cause tension. However, Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato 16:13 states that she must perform hatarat nedarim, and Ḥazon Ovadia (p. 56 and n. 10) states that it is better to perform hatarat nedarim. Nevertheless, in practice, she need not perform hatarat nedarim, and this is the common practice.

May Ashkenazim perform hatarat nedarim and eat kitniyot? Mahari Ben Lev §38 states one who refrained from eating kitniyot because he thought they are ḥametz may perform hatarat nedarim, but one who knew, or whose ancestors knew, that kitniyot is merely a stringent custom may not perform hatarat nedarim. Accordingly, Ashkenazim may not perform hatarat nedarim and eat kitniyot. According to Pri Ḥadash §468, one need not perform hatarat nedarim to annul a custom that originated in a mistake, and if they knew that it is just a stringent custom, it is possible to perform hatarat nedarim. (However, we need to examine whether he would apply this reasoning to a custom accepted by an entire community; perhaps even according to Pri Ḥadash hatarat nedarim would not be effective in such a case.) Ḥatam Sofer OḤ §122 upholds the opinion of Mahari Ben Lev. This is in fact the customary practice: we do not find Ashkenazim performing hatarat nedarim to eat kitniyot.

04. Prohibited Species

The familiar foods included in this custom are: rice, alfalfa, peas, millet, sorghum, chickpeas, fenugreek seeds, sunflower seeds, mustard, buckwheat (kusemet, not to be confused with kusmin – spelt – which is a forbidden cereal grain), cumin, vetch, black-eyed peas, soy, mung beans, lentils, fava beans, lupin beans, poppy seeds, flaxseed, pulse, caraway, hemp seeds, common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), sesame seeds, lupine seeds, corn, clover seed, and tamarind fruit. Products made from kitniyot – corn flakes, corn flour, and rice cakes, for example – are also included in the custom. Saffron was originally called “karkom” in Hebrew and is permitted, and turmeric, the Modern Hebrew karkom, is also permitted, but if there is concern that wheat was mixed into the saffron, it is forbidden. Mustard and flaxseed are not kitniyot, but the custom is to forbid them because they grow in pods like kitniyot.

Dill and coriander are not kitniyot, but one must examine them well because they often contain wheat.

There are differing customs regarding peanuts. In Jerusalem and many other places people refrain from eating them (Mikra’ei Kodesh 2:60), but in Greater Lithuania they were customarily eaten. One who does not know whether his family was stringent in this regard may eat them (Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:63).

Potato flour is permitted on Pesaḥ. There is no contention that based on the customary prohibition of kitniyot anything from which flour can be made should be forbidden. Rather, the custom only includes what the great Ashkenazic Rishonim forbade. Since potatoes had not yet arrived in Europe then, they are not included in the prohibition (ibid.).

Regarding quinoa, some are strict due to its similarity to some types of kitniyot. Some are lenient since the customary prohibition does not apply to quinoa, which entered our diets only recently. Moreover, its seeds are much smaller than those of cereal grains, making them easy to distinguish. In practice, the primary view is the lenient one, as long as one thoroughly inspects the quinoa.

05. Rules Governing This Custom

People who adhere to the custom of not eating kitniyot may keep them in the house during Pesaḥ and derive benefit from them, for example, by feeding them to animals (Rema 453:1).

One who does not eat kitniyot on Pesaḥ may cook them for somebody who does, but it is recommended that he use some sort of reminder that he is not cooking for himself. It is likewise permissible for a storeowner to sell kitniyot during Pesaḥ; however, if there might be wheat kernels among the kitniyot that make up more than one sixtieth of the mixture, the storeowner may not sell the kitniyot, because this could cause customers to transgress the ḥametz prohibition. It would be better to sell such kitniyot along with the ḥametz.

If kitniyot fall into a cooked food, they should be removed, and whatever cannot be removed is batel in the majority of the dish. If, however, such a large amount of kitniyot falls in that they become the majority, the dish is considered a kitniyot dish and its consumption is forbidden (Rema 453:1; MB 8-9 ad loc.).

It is permissible for one who does not eat kitniyot on Pesaḥ to eat from and cook with clean kelim in which kitniyot were previously cooked.[3]

[3]. Kitniyot in a mixture are batel in a simple majority (batel be-rov). Although the implication of Terumat Ha-deshen is that it is only batel be-shishim, the Aḥaronim rule that it is batel be-rov; so state SAH 453:5; Ḥayei Adam 127:1; Ḥavot Ya’ir §6; and Eliya Rabba §4. All of this only applies ex post facto, when the kitniyot were found to be mixed in. However, it is forbidden to mix kitniyot with permissible food le-khatḥila (Kaf Ha-ḥayim 453:25). If one who does not eat kitniyot visits one who does eat kitniyot and there is nothing else for the guest to eat, he may, if absolutely necessary, eat the non-kitniyot food from a mixture containing kitniyot. For example, he may eat potatoes and zucchini from a dish containing kitniyot, even though the food he is eating absorbed some flavor from the kitniyot. If the mixture is so complete that the components cannot be separated, he may eat from it, as the kitniyot are batel be-rov. However, if they knew that they would be hosting him, he should not eat from a dish in which the taste of kitniyot is discernible, as it would be considered a dish into which kitniyot were mixed le-khatḥila. Only if they intended to make him the dish without kitniyot, in which the kitniyot got mixed in accidentally, is it permissible for him to eat.

Those who abstain from kitniyot may still eat food cooked in a pot in which kitniyot had been cooked and that has been cleaned well, since kitniyot are not considered entirely forbidden.

Some maintain that the prohibition of kitniyot begins at the onset of Pesaḥ (Sidur Pesaḥ Ke-hilkhato 16:10 n. 42), and under pressing circumstances one may rely on this view. In practice, however, the mainstream opinion is that the custom of kitniyot corresponds to the prohibition of ḥametz. Thus, kitniyot are forbidden from the time that ḥametz is prohibited (Ḥok Yaakov 471:2; Responsa Maharsham 1:183; Shevet Ha-Levi 3:31).

When the seventh day of Pesaḥ is a Friday, it is permissible (for those who are not keeping an eighth day) to eat kitniyot on Shabbat, though the common practice is not to prepare them on Pesaḥ. Nevertheless, it is permissible to accept kitniyot from someone whose custom is to eat kitniyot on Pesaḥ, and if someone wishes to prepare kitniyot, it is not forbidden.

06. Kitniyot That Never Touched Water and Kitniyot Oils

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

Lecithin extracted from rapeseed and added to chocolate is not included in the kitniyot prohibition, though some are stringent.[7]

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.[8]

[4]. Most authorities are not stricter about kitniyot than about the cereal grains (SAH 453:5; Ḥayei Adam 127:1; Responsa Maharsham 1:183; Be’er Yitzḥak §11; Responsa Marḥeshet §3; and Rav Kook’s Oraḥ Mishpat §111). Some, however, are more stringent, including Sho’el U-meishiv 1:1:175 and Ma’amar Mordechai §32. Their rationale is that no one would understand these distinctions since kitniyot do not become ḥametz. Additionally, they were concerned that making the kitniyot exactly like the cereal grains would mislead people to think they could use kitniyot to fulfill the mitzva of matza. The halakha follows the lenient view, as they are a majority, and also because, in general, halakha follows the lenient view in disputes about custom.

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.

[5]. 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.

[6]. 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.

[7]. 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.

[8]. 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.

  1. 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.

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.”

Chapter Contents