Kitniyot, "qit'niyyoth" ( _he. קִטְנִיּוֹת ,קטניות , קיטניות) (literally "little things") are a category of foods defined by Jewish law and tradition which
AshkenaziJews (Jews from Eastern Europe, Germany, etc.) refrain from eating during the Biblical festival of Passover.
Torah(Exodus 13:3) prohibits Jews from eating leaven ( chametz) during Passover. Technically, chametz is only leaven made from the "five grains": wheat, spelt, barley, shibbolet shu'al(two-rowed barley, according to Maimonides; oatsaccording to Rashi) or rye, although there are additional rabbinic prohibitions against eating these grains in any form other than matzo.
Among traditional Ashkenazi Jews, the custom during Passover is to refrain from not only products of the five grains but also kitniyot. Literally "small things," such as other grains and legumes. Traditions of what is considered kitniyot vary from community to community but generally include
maize(North American corn), as well as rice, peas, lentils, and beans. Many also include peanuts in this prohibition, and one source, the Chayei Adam, also includes potatoes in his list, although his opinion is not followed by any large or major groups. Sephardi Jewstypically do not observe the ban on kitniyot, albeit some groups do abstain from the use of dried pulses during Passover.
The origins of this practice are not clear, though two common theories are that these items are often made into products resembling chametz (e.g. cornbread), or that these items were normally stored in the same sacks as the five grains and people worried that they might become contaminated with chametz. It was also possible that crop rotations would result in the forbidden chametz grains growing in the same fields, and being mixed in with the kitniyot. Those authorities concerned with these three issues suggested that by avoiding eating kitniyos, people would be better able to avoid chametz. The Vilna Gaon (Hagaos HaGra, ibid.) indeed actually cites a novel source for this custom. The Gemorrah in Pesachim (40b) notes that Rava objected to the workers of the Raish Gelusa (the Exilarch) cooking a food called chasisi on Pesach, since it was wont to be confused with chametz. The Tosefos explain that, according to the Aruch, chasisi are lentils, and thus, argues the Gra, establishes the basis for the concern of kitniyos. Rabbi David Golinkin in the [http://home.earthlink.net/~bbenbaruch/qitniyot-kitniyot.htm Responsa] of the Masorati (Conservative) Movement cites Rabbenu Manoah (Provence, ca. 1265) who wrote an opinion in his commentary on Maimonides (Laws of Festivals and Holidays 5:1) that "It is not proper to eat qitniyot on holidays because it is written (in Deut. 16:14) that ‘you shall rejoice in your festivals’ and there is no joy in eating dishes made from kitniyot".
Jewish law is customarily quite stringent about the prohibition against even tiny amounts of chametz in the house during Passover, much more so than the regular laws of
kashrut. Thus a tradition developed to avoid these products altogether, and this eventually developed into what most of the European Jewish community accepted upon themselves as a " minhag", a legally binding custom.
Even where the prohibition of kitniyot was practiced, it was not without opposition. Some poskim went as far as to call it a "stupid practice" without basis. Others, including Rav Moshe Feinstein did not advocate abandoning the custom, but he certainly opposed the tendency to expand the list of forbidden kitniyot (see Igrot Moshe, Orah Hayyim 3. 63).
Sephardicand Yemenite Jews generally do not accept the need for this "minhag", and thus eat kitniyot on Passover. Some AshkenaziJews in Israel who have married Sephardic Jews adopt the Sephardic custom; this often occurs with Orthodox rabbinic approval — a noted leniency, since Orthodox rabbis usually hold that one may not reject the "minhagim" (customs) of one's parents. In light of the gathering of Jews of all ethnic groups back in the land of Israel, MasortiJews, the Conservative movement in Israel, hold that all Jews living in Israel may safely abandon the "minhag" of refraining from kitniyot.
While this practice is considered binding for Ashkenazim in Orthodox Judaism, these items are not chametz and therefore are not subject to the same prohibitions and stringencies as chametz. For example while there is a prohibition against owning chametz on Passover, no such prohibition applies to kitniyot. Similarly, while someone would not be permitted to eat chametz on Passover unless his life were in danger, the prohibition of kitniyot is not so strict. People who might be permitted to eat kitniyot include infirm people and pregnant vegetarians. Such dispensations are far more common in Israel where there is a large Sephardi population.
David Bar-Hayimand [http://www.machonshilo.org Machon Shilo] offer a unique Orthodox approach. They hold that there is no binding custom on Ashkenazim in the Land of Israel as historically this was not the local practice; which is the essence of custom. Their [http://web.archive.org/web/20050508053254/http://www.torahlight.com/pdf/RoadmapQitniyothPesah.pdf Hebrew source sheet ] makes a very interesting read. In fact, in March 2007( Nisan 5767on the Jewish Calendar), he officially released a ruling of Jewish Lawthat all Jews in the Land of Israel are permitted to eat kitniyot (see [http://machonshilo.org/content/view/70/1/ English Article] and [http://machonshilo.org/PDF/Machon_Shilo_Pesaq_Qitniyoth_2.pdf Hebrew Legal Ruling] ). Nevertheless, aside from a small group of his followers, the vast majority of Ashkenazim in Israel disregard this ruling and still refrain from eating kitniyot on Passover.
* [http://www.balashon.com/2006/04/kitniyot.html Etymology of "kitniyot"]
* [http://www.chabad.org/search/keyword.asp?kid=12275 All about Kitniyot (legumes)] on
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