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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Kitniot

Pesach & legumes

Rabbi Elchanan Lewis17 Kislev 5766
716
Question
I am Ashkenazi and become more religious a few years ago in a Sephardic environment where I still live. Somebody told me there’s a severe problem with eating kitniot during Pesach. In my home country there is kasher le’pesach rice available, controlled by a mashgiach as well as legumes. Somebody told me that since my minhag is Ashkenazi I shouldn’t touch these products. Why? This doesn’t make sense. Where are rice and kitniot forbidden for Ashkenazi and why should this be kept in our days?
Answer
This is a good question. The general rule is that if something was decreed by a high authority it can’t be annulled but only a higher authority. The prohibition against legumes and rice is almost 700 years old and was accepted by all Ashkenazi communities world wide. The reasons for this stringency are many such as the similarity to grain, the fact they can be grounded into flour and mixed with wheat flour, they grow in the same field as wheat and can contain remnants of grain and others. It’s true the Sephardi community did not take this upon themselves and Sephardi Jews can therefore eat Kitniyot. Since you are an Ashkenazi Jew you must follow your family customs and refrain from rice and legumes during Pesach. It might not be the most pleasant thing but as you know, there are worse things in life. All the best
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