Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kitniyot Minimization Project ™

I's almost Pesach time, and as usual there's been a lot of ink spilled on whether keeping the minhag of kitniyot still makes any sense.

I have no objection to anyone giving up the prohibition of kitniyot. But my personal approach is that Halacha is an evolving system, and within that approach, the prohibition of kitniyot on Pesach is meaningful to me the same way all halacha is meaningful to me. Once you get beyond d'orayta, is there really such a difference between rules that were created 1,700 years ago and rules, like kitniyot, that are "only" around 700 years old?

That's old enough for it to have become embedded deeply into Ashkenazi Jewish life, and to become something kept by generations of my ancestors, alongside shabbat, kashrut, etc. So I'm not ready to just jettison it.

Here's the caveat, though. My stomach isn't nearly as hardy as it was when I was younger. I had a hard time last Pesach. As much as I keep telling myself I'll eat more vegetables and less matzah, without my usual rice-and-legume heavy diet, I end up hungry the entire time and eating way too much matzah and matzah derived products. Or potatoes and potato derived. Not great for my digestive system.

But I'm not ready to just start eating kitnoyot wholesale. As an Ashkenazi Jew with many generations of Ashkenazi ancestors who all refrained from eating kitniyot on Pesach, it means something to me.

So here's my (semi-serious) plan: I'm starting the Kitniyot Minimization Project ™!

The goal?

1) Formulate a definition for the prohibition of kitniyot that has some internal consistency, something like; any seed, legume, or non-wheatlike grain that was prohibited during the period when the kitniyot prohibition was based on a real rationale, should still be prohibited.

Anything else, such as things that only became popular AFTER the rationale lost its basis, should be permitted.

2) Create a list of items that are permitted or not permitted based on the above definition. North American wild rice, which is not actually rice? Was it known and prohibited? Or is it a more recent addition to the "kitniyot list"? What about green beans? I think I remember hearing that they never used to be considered kitniyot. Last year, my wife and I already started on this path by buying raw peanuts, and kosher l'pesach l'Sephardim peanut butter.

The goal is to make kitniyot a more manageable and sane minhag without abandoning it entirely.

Who's with me?

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that there are competing and contradictory rationales for kitniyot. Some claim it has to do with difficulty differentiating grains, other based on use as flour, etc. Definitions of kitniyot varied by community and some even included potatoes.