This Year’s Reformer: “Efrat Rabbi Tilts Against Passover Food Restrictions for Ashkenazi Jews”


rabbi-leshemEditor’s note: Every year, we seem to be faced with another “trailblazer” who has determined that he knows better than the poskim and gedolim of this and the previous generations by issuing a heter forAshkenazim to consume kitniyos on Pesach. Even in cases where it is allegedly grounded in halacha, such as in instances of taaroves, such efforts lead to a total disregard for the sacred minhag, as demonstrated in the article below, which reports on an “anti-kitniyos” movement that has been formed. It should be pointed out that an effort to permit kitniyos was one of the first moves by early Reform leaders in their attempt to transform Yiddishkeit. The following report appears in Haaretz:

Trying to ease the life of Ashkenazi Jews who observe the dietary laws of the upcoming Passover holiday, an American-born Orthodox rabbi recently issued a halakhic ruling expanding the menu of permitted food products during the weeklong holiday.

According to Ashkenazi custom, the consumption of legumes and other non-wheat grains, known as kitniyot, during Passover is forbidden because of a resemblance to hametz, leavened grain, which is strictly prohibited on the holiday. Since most Israeli Jews who observe the holiday’s dietary laws are of Sephardic descent, and thus do not have this custom, many kosher for Passover products in the country contain kitniyot, such as rice, corn and beans. In recent years, a growing number of Orthodox Jews – especially Western immigrants to Israel – have started rebelling against the kitniyot ban, arguing they are adapting to the Israel’s mainstream practice because the ban is a custom and not law.

A few week’s ago, Rabbi Zvi Leshem, of Efrat, issued a ruling that it is permissible to consume products and dishes containing kitniyot, as long as they do not constitute the main ingredient and are not directly recognizable. His decision will help those who do not want to entirely abandon the tradition of avoiding kitniyot but have difficulties finding certain items – such as oil, mayonnaise or chocolate spreads – that do not contain kitniyot in their ingredients.

“Some of those products that are labeled ‘for those who eat kitniyot only’ are permissible according to all opinions, since the ratio of kitniyot ingredients is less than 50 percent and they are therefore annulled in the majority of non-kitniyot ingredients,” writes Leshem, 54, who was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate and holds a PhD in Jewish philosophy from Bar-Ilan University. “Since only products are forbidden in which kitniyot constitute the main ingredient, many oils, cookies and dairy products containing kitniyot are completely permissible for Ashkenazim.” In addition, he permitted quinoa, the grain-like crop which is “a very new food” unknown to the sages who enacted the ban on kitniyot.

“It is a mitzvah [commandment] to publicize this decision, which is based upon the traditional Halachic methodology of the great authorities throughout the generations, and not upon looking for unnecessary stringencies,” Leshem concludes.

“I tried to show that certain things that people think are prohibited are really permitted,” Leshem, who lived in Cleveland and Indianapolis before he immigrated to Israel in 1979, told Anglo File this week. He said he used to avoid products labeled “for those who eat kitniyot only” for many years before looking into the matter.

“It is very misleading, certainly for Anglo olim [immigrants] who are not used to the whole issue. The obvious thing that most of them do is avoid anything that says kitniyot. But that’s in many cases unnecessary.”

But more and more Ashkenazim, especially Anglos, feel that in Israel it no longer makes sense to observe a custom followed by a minority.

Louis Gordon, for example, said he wondered about the kitniyot divide since he moved from Baltimore to Israel 21 years ago. “I couldn’t understand how kitniyot is kosher for these and treif [not kosher] for those,” he told Anglo File. “There are people for whom kitniyot is worse than hametz. It didn’t make any sense.”

To vent his frustration, Gordon, 44, recently created a Facebook group called Kitniyot Liberation Front. The site, which currently has over 600 members, many of them local Anglos, seeks to promote awareness of lenient rabbinic opinions regarding the use of legumes on Passover. His opinion is mainly based on the views of Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, the head of Jerusalem’s Shilo Institute, who in 2007 issued a ruling allowing Ashkenazim in Israel to eat kitniyot.

“The issue of kitniyot turns the holiday of Pesach from one of abstaining from hametz into abstention from kitniyot. Ashkenazim won’t eat with Sephardim – this is not what God put us on earth for, to divide the people,” the Yad Bimyamin resident told Anglo File.

The opposition against kitniyot will soon reach the “breaking point,” Gordon predicted. “A lot of people are pushing hard for this.” Especially Anglo immigrants are ready to drop the kitniyot prohibition, which has to do with the fact that newcomers often feel they’re abandoning their family traditions as soon as they arrive in Israel, he said.

“If you’re looking to leave the galut [Diaspora] mentality behind then you’re definitely going to leave kitniyot behind.”

David Schwartz, a former New Yorker living in Ra’anana, says he started eating kitniyot soon after he moved to Israel.

“When I grew up in the States kitniyot wasn’t an issue, it was just assumed that it was hametz,” he said. “I didn’t even know there was an issue until I came here and realized that half the country was eating humus and corn and the other half wasn’t.” In the last few years eating kitniyot has become “considerably more acceptable among my Orthodox friends,” added Schwartz, a member of the Conservative movement, whose Israeli branch permitted kitniyot two decades ago.

Leshem, too, said he noticed many Orthodox Israelis disavowing the kitniyot prohibition. “It bothers me even though I can understand where it’s coming from,” he told Anglo File. “I’m in favor of unity among the Jewish people. But it does not seem to me halakically legitimate to just abandon the custom.” His ruling allows Ashkenazim to eat in Sephardic homes, as long as they’re not eating actual recognizable kitniyot, or dishes containing mostly of kitniyot, he added.

Although Gordon, of the Kitniyot Liberation Front, argues for an end to the “foolish custom” of banning kitniyot, he hinted that his wife is not ready to introduce the controversial items to her kitchen. “We don’t serve kitniyot, but if I’m out or if I’m with Sephardim and they’re serving it, it’s not an issue at all,” he said.

“The real idea behind the Liberation Front is that we need to forget about the little things. Kitniyot are little things. We mustn’t panic about eating something we know is not hametz on Pesach,” Gordon said. “If this is the thing that consumes the attention of the Jewish people, we’re really in a bad situation. We have much bigger issues to worry about.”

Hashem yeracheim.

{Haaretz/ Newscenter}


  1. I don’t see the problem. All he’s doing is saying that a ta’arovet kitniyot is muttar so long as it’s less than rov kitniyot. that’s always been the Halacha. A number of years ago I was at a Pesach program in California, in a hotel under the Los Angeles Va’ad’s hashgacha. Ice cream was served at one meal and I noticed that kitniyot were in the ingredients. I asked the rav hamachshir about it and he told me the din I stated above.

  2. Whats more frightening than the thought of people abbandoning a very important minhag, is people abbandoning basic knoledege of halacha. ITs frightening how many people think there is an issur baal yirahe on rice and kitniyos. Or how many people dont understnad that kitniyos can be batel on pesach, let alone before pesach when even chametz is batel. That new foods (like quinoa) werent included in the issur, should be basic knolwedge, yet few are aware that no less than R’ moshe wrote this in a tshuva regarding peanuts. You want to add chumros to one of the oldest minhagim we have, beutiful! But dont let am haaratzos be the guide. the guide should be a desire to get closer to the ribono shel olam

  3. not care abouot the “little things”? Mishna says to be careful about “kalos kvachamuros” the stringent and the less stringent equally. there are no little things.
    Try sending an email and leave out the dot before “com” or “net”. Little??

  4. Given the economic hard times for those that are not going to hotels and on cruises, I think it is wonderful that someone knows that HKB”H has rachmones on the money of Yidden and is trying to help.

  5. matzav, once again, is right on the mark.

    True, kitniyos was instituted as a chumrah, but once it is part of the fabric of Ashkenzaic Jewry, we say minhag Yisroel Torah. Period. End of story. We do not waver. Not one of the contemporary gedolei haposkim have made a statement “nullifying” this minhag. And yes it is sacred.

  6. “and holds a PhD in Jewish philosophy from Bar-Ilan University”
    ?? ???? ?? ?????? ?”? ????

    What are you wondering?

    How about the opinion of Avi Weiss and his mahrat=rabah?

  7. To # 4:
    All the poskim and it could be verified even by the likes of you are of a different opinion than you.
    Their opinion is that it is a GEZEIROH LDOROS.
    See Ramoh, Mishna Berura, Oruch Hashulchon to name a few.

  8. Att. # 1
    This is how everything starts, going to hotel for Pesach, with the “rav hamachshir” going for the biggest kulos even if it is in contrast to Minhogei Yiroel etc.

  9. Without going into the details of the article, one thing I noticed is how only one side of the story is told. All news articles include at least a token quote from those who oppose the main perspective, but here there was absolutely nothing. It’s fascinating how H’aretz can rationalize that the more religious perspective does not need to be mentioned…

  10. I feel bad that you have are addicted to intolerance. I feel bad that you do no understand that Eilu V’Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim is something that did not end but continues to this very day. I feel bad that you are unable to appreciate another view point just because someone Paskin’s Halacha differently then your comfort level or differently then what your Rav would Paskin. You are so blinded by the seething hatred and myopia that has taken hold of “Yeshivish Orthodoxy”, this is definitly not what HKB”H had in mind! As long as you continue to perpetuate this venom you will continue to destroy Judaism much moe than a Rav in E”Y Paskining a Sheila which you disagree with even though it is 100% rooted in Halacha.

  11. “If you’re looking to leave the galut [Diaspora] mentality behind, then you’re definitely going to leave kitniyot behind.”

    Who does this person think he is? Has he become a Posek, all of a sudden?

    What Chutzpah!

    The Kitniyos issue has to do with whether your background is Ashkenazi or Sfardi, not where you live.

    Do all of the Sfardim who emigrated from Middle Eastern countries to Europe or North America stop eating Kitniyos on Pesach?

  12. as you write from behind the protective mask of anonymity, why don’t you have the ability to respond in a learned manner with the substance of what rabbi leshem wrote. why do you call people names and label them instead of dealing honestly with their ideas?

  13. I agree that a Minhag Yisrael should not be taken lightly. At the same time, my understanding is that, strictly speaking, Kitniyos are batel b’rov. For this reason, any criticism should be more measured.

  14. He is not being mevatel the minhag. All he is saying is the poshut halacha. With taaruvos chametz we don’t davka mix it before Pesach, but there is no such halacha with kitnios…just chumra.

    This site is getting to be full of am haratzus.

  15. I heard Rabbi Belsky say that now days rice companys such as Carolina rice use wheat to process rice .He said that even Sephardim should not use rice.on Pesach. I’ts chometz gomer

    I heard Rabbi Belsky say that now days rice companies such as Carolina rice use wheat to process rice .He said that even Sephardim should not use rice.on Pesach.

  17. Let who ever wants to eat kitniyes. Eat them but why do they have to make a whole big thing about it , next somebody will say that in Israel we don’t have to put on Terri in because the majority of people in Israel don’t daven

  18. For those that think that this is just a ‘heter’ and not a breakawaty from Chazal, I suggest you go visit their ‘facebook’ page!
    I would quote some things from their, but it will not be allowed on this site!
    One guy laughs off the whole Mechiras Chametz.
    Another one “Next up: A galut second day of Yom Tov liberation front. We have calendars now!”
    “Let’s have a Kitniyot for raw foodists and vegans march!”
    “Is there a Chicken Liberation Front? Poultry is like fish, not meat, and should be allowed to be eaten with milk”
    Am i done or should i quote more?
    Nuf said!
    Gut Voch

  19. The devide isnt between ‘those who eat kitniot and those that don’t’ Its between keeping the mesorah and those that seek to change it and makeup there own thing

  20. To those who feel that this chumrah of Ashkenazi Jewry is ledoros and quoting the citations of the arch hashulchan and the mishnoh berurah.
    You don’t know if they would make that same statement today as neither of them were alive in a time such as today where ashkenazim and sefardim live together in such great numbers and in such proximity.
    ust because the reform movement used it as a claim 300 years ago does not change the issue of the relevance of the chumrah.
    BTW. I do believe that once you get rid of kitniyot than matzoh shruya is next. That is not a bad thing either. I will stop though once it goes to mixed dancing.

  21. I would not follow this kulah personally, but you cant call this guy a reformer – Rav Moshe ztl poskined like this – it is not this guy’s chiddush at all

  22. I have heard that part of the reason the gezeiroh of Kitniyos came about was after the mass burning of the Talmud and 20,000 kisvei yad in Paris. What followed was a period of ameratzus, so the Ashkenazi Rabbonim were gozeir on Kitniyos.

    The issue I have is, after the time of the Maharil, the products that can be considered Kitniyos ended. Therefore “New World” products such as corn, soybeans, potatoes etc. are not Kitniyos!

  23. T all of the Groyser TZadikim out there:
    You really need to become a Chasid of MY Rov, Shlit”a. He not only forbids the traditional beans, rice etc. as Kitniyos, but includes POTATOES in this category, as well. AFter all, we get Potatoe starch from them like corn, we get Potatoe syrup like corn, and we even can bake POTATOE BREAD.

  24. To the other MOSHE- what R Belsky said has nothing to do with the subject at hand. The issue is Israeli products that are certified by reliable agencies as kosher for pesach for those who eat kitinios, I assume they don’t certify items that might have a mixture of chmetz

  25. nobody says to be mevatel the minhag kodosh of kitniyos for ashkenazim, just get the halachic facts straight, as another example of this kitniyos amaratzus is: the mishna berurah cleary paskens there is no issur bliyos on keilim of kitniyos, its black on white, yet no person knows that there is no need to kasher keilim before pesach that have bliyos of kitniyos, or soda companies that kasher after a kitniyos run before a pesach run, based on the mishn”b there is clearly no need to..

  26. The Sharai Tshuvah there says ur chaiv mesa Bydai shamayim for breaking the Mesorah of Hundreds of years not for eating kitneos. Is that not enough to scare you?

  27. Taanos should be made on those who started last year giving hechsher on kitniyos. In America, where 90% of teh crowd is Ashkenazi, there is no reason for this.
    Tens of people have already been nichshal, thinking that they could eat it.
    They are not far behind this guy from Efrat.

  28. Thank you Matzav for bringing this article to my attention. After reading this, I can start eating ta’aroves kitniyos with a clear conscience. This Rav has done a great public service. I assume that the editors agree with the psak, as they offered no halachic rebuttal.

  29. Rav Yitzchk Elchonon Spektor Zt”l (also known as the Kovna Rov) in Tshuvos Be’er Yitzchok (Siman 11, ayin sham) paskens that even us ashkenazim can lechatchila eat a ma’achel that its kitniyos content is less then roiv.

  30. To # 21-22,

    Those of us that eat rice know which brands to buy which don’t have wheat additives. It’s very easy to mindlessly say everything is assur.

  31. Never knew the world is blessed with so many poskim!
    Enybody finding a word in one of the previous poskim, in many instances take it out of context, knows how to pasken lema’aseh!