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What Else is Forbidden on Passover?

There is yet another category of food that comes into play during Passover. This is the category of kitniyos.

Hundreds of years ago, the Rabbis of the Ashkenazic world: France, Germany, Russia, Poland and other Eastern European lands, convened and passed a ruling that all kitniyos items, and anything that contains kitniyos ingredients, are forbidden on Passover.

Some of these items are: legumes, corn (which includes maize, of course), peas, rice, soy, groats, millet, chick peas, sunflower seeds, string beans, mustard, lentils, beans of any type, poppy seeds, clover, peanuts, fenugreek, buckwheat, green beans, kimmel, caraway, fennel, cumin, linseed, cardamon, coriander, sesame, and so forth. Also forbidden are products containing kitniyos. (However, some Rabbis permit cooking and frying with peanut oil. Consult your own Rabbi.)

There are several reasons for the Halachah forbidding kitniyos.

One reason is that wheat very often gets mixed into other grains, such as rice, because they are often stored in the same places. When checking rice, one can occasionally find a wheat kernel or two in the bag. Such a mixture is chometz.

Also, the Rabbis noticed that people were confusing different types of flours and doughs, and many were, as a result, eating actual chometz on Pesach (Passover). Rice was made into a bread that many people thought was actual bread. People began to get confused, and soon they were eating chometz bread on Pesach, sometimes thinking that the bread was made of rice, and sometimes thinking that bread made of wheat was permitted. (Perhaps they thought “if it's processed a certain way, it's permitted.” Of course, that's wrong, and so many people were eating chometz on Passover.)

Another reason they forbade kitniyos is because there are cereals that are made from kitniyos flour that look exactly like chometzdig cereals, and again, this was confusing many people and causing them to eat actual chometz.

Even if the reasons would not hold true today (and they do), we are still required to keep this Halachah (Jewish Law).

Incidentally, the Aruch Hashulchan (453:5) shows that the Rabbis of the Talmud (see Yerushalmi, Perek Kol Sha'ah, Halachah Daled) argued over whether or not the rising of rice is leavening or not. They examined the matter, and eventually agreed that it was not leavening, but simply a rising (which I guess is from the starch). If the Rabbis of the Talmud could be in doubt over this, points out the Aruch Hashulchan, all the more so would be the masses who have not studied in depth the Laws of Passover! Moreover, unlearned people could see the rising of rice, and think that if Halachah permits that, then other grains are also permitted. And the end result would be that they would eat one of the five forbidden grains with water or some other liquid.

Therefore, to all Ashkenazim, such items are forbidden on Passover, except sometimes to sick people who need them. In all such cases, one MUST consult a Rabbi.

The Sefardic Rabbis (Rabbis of Spain, North Africa, Italy, the Orient Middle and Far East, etc.) did not pass this ruling, for whatever reasons they had. Therefore Sefardim are permitted to eat kitniyos during Passover. However, Sefardim are required by Halachah to carefully check any kitniyos THREE TIMES before they can use it Pesach. This is also true for any Ashkenazic Jew whom the Rabbis permit to eat kitniyos for reasons of health. Even in this day and age, grains of wheat are often found among the grains of rice.

Many products in the stores have kitniyos. For example, a very prevalent ingredient in today's mass-marketed foods is corn syrup. According to Wikipedia, "It is used to sweeten soft drinks, juices, ice cream, whole wheat bread and many other mass-produced foods. Its liquid form keeps foods moist and prevents them from quickly spoiling." Since corn is kitniyos, during Passover we may not eat any products that contain corn syrup.

Another almost ubiquitous ingredient is lecithin. It is added to food products as an emulsifier, which is something needed for the other ingredients in the food. All commercially produced lecithin, including supplements, is made from soy, and is therefore kitniyos. Those who need to take lecithin for their health can get it from soft-boiled eggs, according to the Doctor Yourself web site. However, always ask your doctor and your Rabbi.

But as important and vital this Halachah is for Ashkenazim, the fact remains that kitniyos is not chometz. This means that most of the stringent Halachos mandated by the Torah concerning the five grains do not apply to kitniyos. We may own kitniyos, and even keep kitniyos in the house, on Pesach, separate from the food you intend to use, and locked up where you won’t find it. In fact, it is best to sell it with the chometz, in case there is indeed some grain mixed inside.

It is also permitted to derive benefit from kitniyos during Pesach. You may sell kitniyos to Gentiles Chol Hamo'ed Pesach (Intermediary Days of Yom Tov, when SOME things are permitted that are not permitted on Shabbos or Yom Tov). It is permitted to feed your animals kitniyos (Aruch Hashulchan 465:1).We may also use kitniyos-based fuel for fires and lamps and so forth.

Nowadays, any food product with a good Rabbinical supervision for Passover can be eaten during Passover without fear of it being either chometz or kitniyos.

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