Friday, April 18, 2008

So many are wondering: can oatmeal be eaten during Passover? How about beans, rice, and corn?

More than a few people found their way to Pratie Place today wondering whether it's ok to eat oatmeal during Passover. Google points them to this excellent email interchange among some of my daughter's friends.

Since John Friedman, rabbi of Judea Reform congregation, addressed this indirectly in our newsletter this month, I'm including part of his piece below.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, short answer: no, no oatmeal.

On the other hand, popcorn (which I always thought was ok) is now ok.

I also opine that puffed wheat and puffed rice, which as everybody knows touch no water but are, instead, cooked by being "shot from guns," make perfectly acceptable Passover breakfast foods.

Last year a few congregants asked me about a change the Conservative movement had made in its understanding of Jewish Law concerning what may be eaten on Passover. Are corn, peas, beans, and rice still prohibited during the holiday?

First, a little vocabulary:

Chametz: There are two major mitzvot which we are obligated to observe on Passover. One is to eat matzah on the first night. The other is not to eat chametz. Matzah may be made from five types of grain: wheat, barley, rice, oats and spelt. On Passover, they may only be eaten in the form of matzah, which by definition has not leavened. Had it leavened (risen) we would call it chametz and prohibit it during the festival. Nothing else can be chametz.

Kitniyot: These are rice, corn, beans, peas and other pod vegetables which are not chametz (that is, they do not leaven) but were nevertheless prohibited on Passover by Ashkenazic Jewish authorities. There is little basis for this prohibition. Some say these vegetables have the appearance of a grain and therefore should be prohibited... Sephardic tradition permits these vegetables.

As you can see the basis for excluding beans and rice and corn on Passover is pretty flimsy. That is why the Va'ad Halakah, the Jewish legal authorities of the Conservative Movement in Israel, recently decided it is permissible to do away with this "mistaken or foolish custom". (They did not equivocate about their decision!)


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

I work with someone who is Orthodox and follows Ashkenazic custom, even though, as you say, it's not *really* necessary to avoid rice and they all know it. His rabbi told him, however, that it was permissible for his dog to follow Sephardic custom and continue to eat her rice-based kibble throughout Passover. (Otherwise he wouldn't be allowed to keep it in the house). I find this both questionable and hilarious. My cat is also Sephardic, but she doesn't keep kosher. I hope that's not a problem.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally among traditionally observant sephardim, the practice is to only eat processed kitniyot products (e.g. puffed rice, canned beans) if they have kosher for Passover certification.

Sometimes there is a list (particularly of cereals) which are known to be Kosher for Passover even though they have no labeling -- this is particularly true of Gluten-Free cereals, but you should still follow a list if you're interested in following the traditional custom.

Nevertheless, for those who are generally more lenient on themselves but still want to avoid eating something that everyone would agree is forbidden on Passover: I think puffed rice would be fine --- as long as it's the only ingredient and it was bought before Passover (this puts it in a special category where any microscopic chametz is nullified before Passover).

Puffed wheat is a serious problem (according to this, puffing grains actually involves steaming them, so this would be a definite no-no for wheat). However, there is a historical precedent for eating from the 5 grains on Passover in a form that isn't matzah. When the Jews arrived in Israel for the first time after Egypt with Joshua, they celebrated Passover and then the next day ate matzah and parched grains (Joshua 5:11). However, this is taking live grain right off the stalk and roasting it, dry, in a pan. That's very different from an industrial process.

Happy two-months-to-Pesach (in 2015),

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the cat is concerned -- since it's known that kitniyot are not really what's called a "Torah prohibition" for Passover, they are permitted for pets even for Ashkenazim. This is because we're allowed to benefit from kitniyot on Passover (i.e. you could be a rice seller and sell rice on Passover) but we're not allowed to benefit from Chametz (so you can't sell bread during the week of Passover).

Technically, the same leniency applies to mixtures of milk and meat. It is a Torah Prohibition to benefit from a mixture of a calf with it's mother's milk (i.e. any kosher animal that nurses its young mixed with any kind of milk from a kosher animal). So you can't feed your dog beef & cheese food.

However, even though we're not allowed to eat pork, we're allowed to benefit from it (this is really complicated), so you can feed your pet pork. You can also feed your pet milk mixed with the meat of an unkosher animal OR a kosher animal that doesn't produce milk (like a chicken). So I used to feed my cat a chicken & rice based cat food that also had milk in it, during Passover, and that was totally fine.

Some people, basically for purity sake, even though there's no legal need to do so, feed their pets pure kosher meat on Passover, to avoid issues with grains. This is definitely not required, but does make it less likely that you'd accidentally get something in the kitchen sink that the people in the household were not supposed to be eating.

As to whether this is questionable -- generally, the body of Jewish law as devised by the rabbis is logical -- that is, it follows a system of logical reasoning (even if the actual decisions seem unreasonable). Within the context of the system, nearly all decisions make sense. Even so, there is room within even the most Orthodox Judaism for divergent opinions, as long as they are derived from those same systems of logic. Such a system isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend that everyone follow it.

Whether these decisions can sometimes seem hilarious, well, that is very subjective, but that can definitely be true, even if I might at the same time affirm the logic -- and frequently the underlying intentions -- that led to these decisions.


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