By Rabbi George Barnard
Many people have asked me about eating kitniyot (beans, peas, rice, etc.) on Pesah, in the light of the article by Rabbi David Golinkin which appeared in the most recent issue of Kolot: Voices of Conservative Judaism, in which Rabbi Golinkin advocates abandoning the Ashkenazic practice of avoiding kitniyot on Pesah. This article is a close adaptation of Rabbi Golinkin’s teshuvah on the subject, which was approved by the Vaad Hahalakha of the Israel Region of the Rabbinical Assembly in 1989.
What is new in the current article is that it appeared in English in a North American publication. (Incidentally, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly does not endorse Rabbi Golinkin’s position.) Rabbi Golinkin’s halakhic analysis is absolutely correct, but I don’t recommend that people eat kitniyot on Pesah.
First, on the Holidays, especially Pesah, we tend to follow family traditions, and most of us have the tradition of avoiding kitniyot. Second, in Rabbi Golinkin’s Hebrew teshuvah, he explicitly connected his position to the situation in Israel, where the majority of the Jews are of Sephardic origin, and where many kitniyot products are available with Kosher l’pesah certification.
In 1989, the situation in most of the Diaspora was quite different. It still is different, although there are now more kitniyot products (including rice) available with Passover certification, and one could also argue that even those of us whose families came from Central and Eastern Europe are not as “Ashkenazic” as we used to be. I have said for years that vegetarians and other people with special dietary needs should consider eating kitniyot on Pesah. If other people really want to eat kitniyot, then they can go ahead. They should be careful, however, to use only raw, unprocessed, foods, or those with Pesah certification. If people eat kitniyot but are otherwise scrupulous about the observance of Pesah, then there is no reason why those who avoid kitniyot cannot eat in their houses.