What is Kitniyot and should we observe the practice?


Jewish ancestors developed some laws that go beyond and are more restrictive than what the Torah demands. Among other reasons, they did so out of a feeling of piety and to assure that by obeying the new prohibition Jews would not even come near to disobeying a related biblical requirement. Kitniyot is an example.

The Torah’s restricts owning, eating, and benefiting from leaven products, called chametz in Hebrew, during the holiday of Passover. In the middle ages, a custom arose in Ashkenazic countries, Germany, Poland, Russia, etc., not to eat certain foods known collectively as kitniyot. The book on Jewish laws and customs Mishnah Berurah (453:6 & 464:5) suggests three reasons why the custom began: (1) kitniyot is harvested and processed just like chametz, and (2) it is ground into flour and baked just like chametz so people may mistakenly believe that if they can eat kitniyot, they can also eat chametz, and (3) the kitniyot may have chametz grains mixed into it so that people who eat it may accidently eat chametz. Jews in Spanish and Moslem countries (called Sephardic Jews) did not accept the new restriction, and do not observe it today. Many Jews in Ashkenazic countries initially disliked the new restriction, but they soon accepted the new rule as part of the Passover laws. Lists were developed indicating what was considered kitniyot, but there were disagreements in the past and still today what should and should not be included in the list. Peanuts is one of many still contested items.

The following are considered kitniyot by many Ashkenazic Jews:
Fennel Seeds
Green Beans
Linseed (Flaxseed)
Poppy Seeds

Sesame Seeds
Sunflower Seeds

Amaranth and Peanuts are considered kitniyot by some authorities.


My good friend, a brilliant Orthodox philosophy professor, Raphi Jospe, sent me an email saying the Conservative Rabbinate permitted kitniyot, but he added – As for me:


How very nice

To eat some rice.

No more forlorn,

While noshing corn.

They aim to please,

So eat your peas.

This also means

Permitting beans.

Tremendous joy,

While eating soy.

But do they make

A big mistake?

Will this old news

Turn on more Jews,

To celebrate,


Observe and keep?

Or wind to reap?

As they decide

To put aside,

A custom old,

Which, we are told,

Although from birth,

Has no more worth.

What they don’t see

Is that, for me,

Things we observe,

To link us serve,

With past, ‘tis true,

But me with you.

So things we share,

Show that we care,

From where we’ve come,

And may become.