A Letter from Rabbi Greene about Passover
I am writing to clarify an area of concern for many in our community about the Festival of Pesach. Every year, rabbis around the world receive inquiries about what is kosher for Passover. Can I eat quinoa? Peanuts? Why is there a prohibition over legumes?
Well, here is a brief response... Ashkenazi Jewish rabbis, some centuries ago, did not want certain foods which resembled or stored alongside the forbidden grains - wheat, oats, spelt, rye and barley -- to cause confusion, so a category of food called kitniyot were formed: those foods that are associated with a minhag/custom of prohibition during Pesach.
Reform rabbis in North America and Israel, and now the Conservative movement's Law and Standards Committee, have all agreed that this prohibition does not have the same relevance as it did, in fact it causes undue strain for those who seek to observe the traditions of eating food that is kosher for Pesach. Thus, they all agree, as do I, that kitniyot are permissible.
At Congregation Har HaShem, we will have food that is available that might have kitniyot in it (like corn-based ingredients). We focus on ingredients in our congregation, so not everything will have a heksher (stamp signifying rabbinic supervision) that indicates Kosher for Passover/Kasher L'Pesach. For those who choose to continue to observe the custom of abstaining from kitniyot, please be mindful of what you take during our Shabbat oneg. For others who choose to let go of this prohibition, welcome to a new moment of liberation!
For more reading, here are some sources:
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.
With wishes for a sweet, liberating Pesach,
Rabbi Fred Greene