by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis
The Problems of Legumes
Understanding the Gezeiras Kitniyos
Chometz or Chumroh?
Mrs. Goldstein was cooking in the kitchen a few days before
Pesach. Her mother-in-law, a guest for the chagim,
happened to get a whiff of the delightful aroma of the
festival cuisine, and nervously entered the kitchen. "Are you
by any chance using . . . garlic?" she queried anxiously.
The now apprehensive daughter-in-law, unsure of how to reply
to this surprise interrogation, thought for a second and
slowly nodded her head in the affirmative.
"Garlic!" she cried out, "Where I grew up garlic was
What's wrong with using garlic on Pesach? One opinion
maintains that garlic is commonly grown with wheat. Others
suggest that small cloves of garlic grow wild as weeds in
wheat fields. Since they could get mixed up with wheat, some
have the minhag not to eat any garlic on Pesach. A
third view proposes that the water used to make beer was used
to irrigate garlic. Some poskim rule that anyone who
follows this custom should continue doing so (Pri Megodim,
Eishel Avrohom 464,1), while others imply that it has no
basis in halochoh (Chayei Odom 127,7).
Although Mrs. Goldstein's reaction may have been slightly
exaggerated, many Jewish households have an extensive
inventory of foods that they do not consider to be kosher
lePesach. Since many of these items do not contain even a
trace of grain, why can't we eat them during the Yom Tov of
Pesach? In order to understand these minhogim, let us
first look into how this custom developed.
"Matzoh can only be made from wheat, barley, spelt, rye and
oats . . . as opposed to rice and other grains that cannot
become chometz" (Pesochim 35a). Many rishonim cite
this mishnah as a proof that it is permitted to eat
rice or any other edible seeds on Pesach (Rif, Rambam,
Rosh, Rabbeinu Yeruchom, Shulchan Oruch). However a
number of rishonim cite a minhag not to eat rice and
other types of edible seeds or legumes, and this is the
accepted Ashkenazi practice (Ramo 453,1).
Grains and legumes (defined as all other seeds that produce
plants, as opposed to producing trees) share many
similarities. The Rishonim write that during the course of
their harvesting and production there are three possibilities
The first is in the silo or wherever they are stored. Since
both are very small and similar in size, shape and color,
wheat could easily find its way into a pile of legumes
without anyone noticing it. This problem is seriously
compounded during drought years, when lack of rainfall causes
wheat kernels to shrivel up and appear very much like other
types of plants.
A second problem surfaces after the grains have already been
ground into flour. After having lost their original form, the
flour of grain and kitniyos may look almost identical.
Therefore the minhag is to prohibit all beans and
legumes which could be made into flour or bread, even if they
are cooked whole.
A final problem arises after the flour has been kneaded and
baked. Here the possibilities for confusion are much greater,
and many Sephardim who do eat other forms of kitniyos,
nonetheless do not eat bread made from them. Even though
today's high-tech industrial procedures may lower the chances
of such mix-ups taking place, nonetheless since this custom
has been accepted, it is incumbent upon Ashkenazic Jews to
follow it (Mishna Berurah and Biyur Halochoh
"It is forbidden to put flour into mustard, and if it is
added on Pesach it must be eaten immediately" (Pesochim
40b). Although the gemora permits the use of
mustard itself on Pesach, some rishonim write that
mustard seed is stored in piles and included in the
gezeiras kitniyos (Hagohos Maimonios as cited by
Later poskim note that mustard seed does not satisfy
any of the reasons for the kitniyos decree. If so
where did the custom not to eat mustard come from?
Mustard seed shares one characteristic with the other plants
included in the gezeiroh, in that it grows in a pod
(sharvit) with many seeds. Even though this is not one
of the problematic attributes of kitniyos, because of
this similarity to other types of forbidden kitniyos,
the minhag is not to use it on Pesach (Taz
463,1; Graz 463,4).
From the above halochoh we see that even when the three
reasons for kitniyos do not apply to a particular
seed, this does not necessarily mean that the seed is not
included in the prohibition of kitniyos. If so, where
do we draw the line? In order to understand which products
are included in the prohibition of kitniyos and which
items are not, it is important to clarify a few issues.
Peanuts and Popcorn
Since kitniyos is a minhag, we must first
establish what this custom encompasses. Many plants available
today were unknown in the times of Chazal. HaRav Moshe
Feinstein zt"l (Igros Moshe 3,63) and HaRav Tzvi
Pesach Frank zt"l (Mikro Kodesh 2,60) write that
unless there is a clear indication that the minhag was
extended to include other items (i.e. people in your city are
stringent not to eat a certain food because of
kitniyos), only those items which were originally
included in the custom (e.g. rice) are prohibited.
In this vein, Rav Moshe says that even though peanuts are
used to make flour and are similar to other kitniyos,
since peanuts were not available during the time of the
rishonim they may be consumed on Pesach (in a place
where the custom is to eat them). A number of rabbonim
concurred with this ruling, including HaRav Chatzkel Abramsky
zt"l. He held so strongly that they were permitted,
that he would make sure to serve them to his guests on Pesach
According to the above reason, corn should also be permitted,
for although it fits the qualifications of other forbidden
kitniyos, it was not known in the times of the
Rishonim. However the Mishna Berurah forbids
"Turkish Wheat" and some say that this refers to corn
(453,4). Rav Moshe clarifies that even items which were not
available during the time when the gezeira started can
subsequently become forbidden, if a minhag develops
not to use them.
However there is another, new problem with eating peanuts on
Pesach. Rav Moshe's teshuvoh was written in 5726
(1966), almost forty years ago. Some of today's processed
peanuts have flour added and are roasted in ovens which are
not kosher lePesach. Although according to this reason
unprocessed peanuts are permitted, some have a minhag
not to eat any of them, and some say that even Rav Moshe
would concur not to eat them (Mikro Kodesh ibid.).
Up until now we have discussed eating the legumes themselves
on Pesach. What is the halochoh concerning a by-product or
derivative of kitniyos?
The Ramo quotes the Terumas Hadeshen and Maharil who write
that one should not burn oil from kitniyos on the
table during Pesach, for it might splash onto the food
(Darchei Moshe). This seems to imply that they held
that the oil of kitniyos was also forbidden, and some
poskim concur with this (Nishmas Odom 33).
This custom applies straightforwardly with regard to edible
legumes such as peanuts or corn. Since the seed itself is
forbidden, the derivatives take on the same halochoh. However
since cottonseed is not itself edible, is its oil
In the course of a responsa, the Maharil mentions that it is
permitted to benefit from, (but not eat) the oil of
kanabus possibly referring to hemp or another inedible
plant (see Kilayim 5,8). Based on this, some poskim
forbid the use of cottonseed oil on Pesach (see
Minchas Yitzchok 4,114).
Even with the above considerations, there are still a number
of reasons that cottonseed oil should not be included in the
gezeira of kitniyos. Cottonseed is not edible.
They are also not piled up, nor are they made into flour or
bread. Furthermore they do not look like wheat at all, and
therefore the problem of chometz getting mixed in
should not apply. Many places in America are lenient
regarding its use, while in Israel many places do not use
cottonseed oil. The bottom line in all questions of
kitniyos is that one must follow the minhag.
Potatoes and Coffee
Although today potatoes are on most people's Pesach diet,
since they are used to make flour there is reason to argue
that the gezeira of kitniyos should apply to
them. Based on this, some poskim wanted to forbid
eating potatoes on Pesach (Nishmas Odom 20). However
this minhag was never accepted by most of Klal
Yisroel, because they are not seeds, they are not small,
and they were not forbidden in the times of the
Seeds are only considered to be legumes if they grow on
vegetation or shrubbery. Since coffee and cocoa beans grow on
trees, they are not included in the category of
kitniyos (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 463,1). Therefore
the poskim agree that one may consume these beverages
on Pesach (Mishbatzots Zahav 453,1).
Even though the custom of Ashkenazim is to avoid eating
legumes on Pesach, as mentioned earlier, kitniyos does
not have the status of chometz, and a number of
leniencies apply to it. Children and sick individuals may eat
them on Pesach if they are important for their diet. So too,
if kitniyos get mixed up with other food which is
kosher lePesach, as long as there is a majority of
kosher lePesach food, the mixture is permitted.
Kitniyos can be put away and do not need to be sold,
even if they got wet (Mishna Berurah 453:7,9,12).
Seeds of Redemption
Since the minhag not to eat kitniyos was
accepted as a fence to the Torah prohibition against
chometz, it is forbidden to disregard it. Any
Ashkenazic Jew who does so "testifies upon himself that he
does not have yiras Shomayim, and is not versed in the
ways of the Torah (Oruch Hashulchon 453,4)."
Furthermore, since the minhag not to eat kitniyos
is well established for hundreds of years, those
communities who have accepted it should not be lenient
regarding its observance. Anyone who eats kitniyos on
Pesach has violated the Torah commandment of "Lo
Sosur," you should not swerve from the words of the Sages
(Sha'arei Teshuvoh 463,1).
As we look towards the final redemption, we must search for
whatever catalysts we can find to hasten its arrival. Among
these resources are the minhagim that we have observed
for hundreds of years. These potent seeds can plant
emunoh within our hearts, and raise us high above our
enemies who surround us, even in the midst of these days of
In the merit of distancing ourselves from chometz as
Chazal commanded us, "May our eyes witness the merciful
return to Zion."
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