Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I Don't Eat Kitniyot On Pesach

A Guest Post by Rafi G

Why don't I eat kitniyot on Pesach?

Good question.

The truth is that the logic employed by Rav Davvid Bar-Hayyim (or however he spells it) makes sense to me. Jews have come back to Eretz Yisrael, and we should be adopting the minagim of Eretz Yisrael, which were always predominantly sephardic in origin, except for a small period of time where some communities have imported the customs from the students of the GRA.

It has always bothered me why, for the most part, our minhagim are stuck in Poland/Germany/Morocco/Iraq/Yemen/Hungary of 100 and 200 years ago. Why does the Jewish community of New York not have its own minhagim that when people moved there they should have adopted into a uniform minhag? Why only in the communities of Europe did everyone keep 1 uniform minhag?

mmm, can't live a week without it!
I know the answers of mobility, and that the people in Europe stayed put for hundreds of years, often in little towns, while cities in the western world were suddenly populated by Jews from all over, etc. None of them are very satisfactory. A city like New York (one example, but applies to all cities) should have had a local minhag, and anyone joining the community should have adopted the local minhagim (communal minhagim at least, if not personal as well).

So, in essence, I am open to the concept of people moving to Eretz Yisrael and adopting the local minhag. The problem with it is that it is only in concept. in practice it is not done, and there is no longer any uniform local minhag. For anything. Every community has sub-communities, where each keeps its own minhag from way back when, and in each sub-community there is plenty of diversity as well.

So it is kind of difficult to say that we suddenly adopt the local minhag by kitniyot, when we do not do so for just about anything else. I mean, those who eat kitniyot, do they daven nusach sefard (some daven "nusach eretz yisrael" which Rav Bar Hayyim has reprinted)? Do they put on tefillin like safrdim? do they do anything else like sefardim? It seems to me that to just pick kitniyot as the issue that you will use to adopt local customs with is disingenuous.

That being said, I have no problem with Rav Bar Hayyim paskening that way, or with his talmidim following his psak. It seems to me to be wrong that suddenly many people choose to follow a rav they follow on nothing else, and probably have no idea about anything else he says. But that is their choice, and I say that for me to adopt such a custom, to eat kitniyot against my minhag, against the original takana that was accepted among those from where my minhagim originate, would be wrong.

And to me, I see no reason to go against the takanas chachomim for one week of eating rice and chumus. I can refrain for a week.

To take the discussion a bit further, I have said I have no problem with Rav Bar Hayyim (or other rabbonim who have followed suit recently) and his students coming to this conclusion and eating kitniyot. Everyone can do what is good for them.

What does irk me, a bit, is that instead of publishing his psak in halachic and Torah journals, where he would generate discussion among rabbonim and communities, he publishes his psak in newspapers such as Yediot Acharonot and Haaretz.

So, instead of having the world of rabbinics and halacha debate the issue, he publishes his psak in secular newspapers where people who don't know much, who don't keep much (and some who do), will like what they read from him because it is getting rid of an old restriction and follow suit, even though they barely keep anything else, and definitely have no idea who he is or what else he talks about. He is encouraging people who have no ability to debate the merits of his case to go against their commonly held custom. At least those who don't eat matza on pesach keep it to themselves and don't promote it among the general public.

Furthermore, he so holds he is right that he even invalidates rabbonim from being able to pasken otherwise by saying their appointment as community rav is invalid. So anybody who argues with him can be ignored, because they have no right to pasken otherwise.

Again, I have no problem with him paskening to eat kitniyot, and I have no problem with those who follow him eating kitniyot. The logic makes sense to me, but there are too many conflicting issues that make me personally uncomfortable with it. And I see no reason to go against the takana with all that on the plate. My problem is with the way he encourages other people to go against their psak, or to adopt a new (for them) minhag they know nothing about.

Maybe one day he will generate debate among halachic scholars, and a consensus will be arrived at that says the original takana is no longer relevant, either due to our presence in Eretz Yisrael, or for other reasons, and then I will eat kitniyot as well. Until then, I see no need.

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