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Some Sephardim claim kitniyot laws are racist

Sephardic groups are claiming that kitniyot is a racist custom, after several big Sephardic rabbis concurred with Ashkenazic sources that there is no halachic basis to kitniyot and that it is merely a tradition started to separate the two groups of Jews. The entire concept of kitnyot is so obviously racist according to Rav Ovadia Abadi, that he has gone so far as to contact the ACLU to try and put a stop to this madness, he has since started calling Kitniyot just another Jim Crow Minhag started by ashkenazic rabbis in Lithuania to maintain their distance from their white talis wearing brethren.

Last year Ashkenazim in Israel acknowledged that the age old laws against eating seeds, rice and legumes on Pesach were hooey, they didnt go as far to acknowledge their obvious racist nature by referring to them as Jim Crow Minhagim, but anyone can see that is the point.

Gedolei Yisroel, are calling this claim preposterous, they say that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that involving groups like the ACLU and NAACP could just bring trouble to traditional Judaism. The RHaF told us that it was Sephardim who wished to be segregated. You dont see Ashkenazi Pride Parades; we arent parading our nusach and ancestry around like they are. You dont see Ashkenazi restaurants or neighborhoods; you think I could afford to live in Deal? Or get one of those mansions on Ocean Parkway and have my Bentley parked in front? All we have left to discern us between them, is bland food and the laws of kitniyot. The RHaf is committed to keeping kitnyot alive for other reasons as well. I dont even eat gebrokts, now you want to welcome foods that can obviously be turned into flour and become leavened. Its insane, its almost as bad as allowing women to become rabbis at least the Sephardim agree on the danger of allowing womens rights within traditional Judaism.

Many left wing groups are rallying behind the Sephardic cause, supporters say that Jim Crow should have been hung out to dry with the passing of the civil rights act in 1964, but he has since arisen from the grave. Many Sephardim are saying that Jim Crow has experienced techiyas hamesim.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • ghottistyx March 24, 2010, 2:50 AM

    So true. I’ve got more pride in the Sefardi heritage I don’t have (except for ONE Morrocan who married into my family) than the Ashkenazi heritage I do have. Even if there was such thing as an Ashkenazi Pride Parade, you wouldn’t see me there.

    And yes, I will say that in the school I went to, the Sefardim were a small minority and many were the ‘tokens’ in my grade. Every year harbored one Sefardi Bar Mitzva that would end with some class clown going around making fun of the Sefardi ta’amim (and how nasal it sounds). Not till I got older and actually got my hands on some real Sefardi Chazzanut did I begin to actually appreciate the beauty of it. For those interested, I like Jo Ammar a lot.

    Oh, and for those of you who have never seen the classic Israelli film Sallah Shabbati, SEE IT! The protagonist is the stereotypical curmudgeon Mizrahi who just moved to the Old Yishuv in Israel whose next door neighbor, Mr. Goldstein, is the token Ashkenazi in this movie. Some of the more comical moments are when Sallah makes fun of Goldstein and his Ashkenaziness, esp. how he can’t play Sheshbesh to save his life! And oh yeah, Chaim Topol got the Mizrahi accent so down-pat, that if I didn’t know he was actually French, I totally would have thought he was the real deal.

  • conservative scifi March 24, 2010, 9:26 AM

    I know this comment is too serious, but my daughter actually did a science fair project for school to test whether Rambam was right on whether different flours could be leavened (and we even added yeast directly to get the flours to rise, with controls of wheat with and without yeast). Cornmeal, barley and brown rice flours rose the least, not much more than wheat without any yeast at all, while spelt and millet flours rose the most, even slightly more than wheat with yeast.

    So maybe the Sephardim are on to something.

  • Phil March 24, 2010, 9:46 AM

    Funny, I was just reading up on my dad’s original customs of eating rice, fava beans and lamb at the seder, he’s from Tunis. Unfortunately, they didn’t practice much, and when they became BT later in life they followed the most stringent of Chabad mihagim, peeling grapes and substituting oil with chicken fat.

    They’ve relaxed a bit since then, and he complains every year about the stupidity of eating chicken at the seder and not being able to eat the pessach foods he grew up with. I keep trying to convince him to do hatarat nedarim, but he doesn’t want to upset my mom, she’d probably feel like she was eating pork if she were forced to have kitniyot in the house on Pessach.

    My next quest is to figure out where I stand if he ever reverts to his old customs. Do I get to tag along?

    • Avrumy March 24, 2010, 12:54 PM

      What’s the deal with peeling grapes?

      • Phil March 24, 2010, 1:16 PM

        Strict Lubavitchers peel any fruits or vegetables before eating them on Pessach, due to the pesticides or wax possibly containing chametz.

        Most just go with simple potatoes, apples and bananas, but my mom goes all out to peel grapes and strawberries for fruit salad, as well as tomatoes for regular salad.

  • Lamdan March 24, 2010, 12:25 PM

    Phil,

    It is probabl that you can eat them NOW. You have no obligation to follow your fathers self accepted stringinceys.

    • Phil March 24, 2010, 12:34 PM

      Lamdan,

      Interesting point of vue to say the least. As much as I like the way it sounds, I can’t imagine being allowed to revert to rice/kitniyot if my dad doesn’t, as I never grew up with it. They started observing Pessach when I was young, before that we went to my maternal Grandfather, he was from Hungary (I did revert to Gebrokts a few years ago).

      Now for the REAL question. Do I ask an Ashkenaz or Sephardi Rabbi?

      • "Rabbi No" March 24, 2010, 3:06 PM

        The gemara, I believe in Pesahim, is doresh from ‘Al Titush Me’Torat E’Mecha’ to mean one should not deviate from one’s minhagim. My opinion, and brought down by many, is that Minhag is based on a long ancestral belief and following carried from generation to generation. While your respected father may not have followed his Sephardic cutom originating from Tunis, you have what to rely on based on what your Great Grandfather practiced. However, there is Minhag Hamakom that comes to play. And if you live in an area where your the sole “believer” than you may be stuck eating solely more potatoes and matzha….

        • Phil March 24, 2010, 4:13 PM

          Minhag Hamakom is a funny thing. The first Jews in North America were sefardim, and the first community in Montreal (where I live) was the Spanish and Portugese synagogue.

          The ahskenazim never conformed to minhag hamakom, and put together the Jewish federation, schools and vaad hair (beth din). The beth din is unified, it’s rabbis include yeshivish, chassidish, Lubavitch, but only 1 is sefardi.

          Basically, the city runs on ashkenaz rules for the most part, and the majority Sefardim here (mainly of Moroccan origin) don’t eat rice on pesach, I think they avoid chick peas and beans as well.

          I know all this sounds really petty, as people can survive without rice very easily for a week. But with people like my dad who’s memories of Pessach are mainly culinary, it means a bit more than just whether or not to skip the rice.

      • AY March 24, 2010, 8:19 PM

        Depends on the rabbi. A good rabbi, regardless of their own background and minhagim should rule according to halacha and YOUR background and minhagim. Unfortunately so many have their head stuck up their bum and can’t see past themselves.

        I asked my rabbi husband out of curiosity (we’re Jewish mutts who are more or less sepharadim, and Orthodox, should that be relevant to you). He say it depends on your father’s intent when he took them on. If he took them on only because that’s what everyone around him was doing but with no real intent to take it as a full on minhag then reverting at any time is fine (for your father or yourself). If he took them on to be a minhag for himself then you should generally stick with that as that is what you grew up with.

        However, he also says that you can change your minhagim if you really want but you need to think about everything and where you stand. What is your minhag to be about all aspects of your life and commit yourself to that, preferably with guidance from a rabbi or group if you will be affiliating yourself elsewhere.

        He said that hatarat nederim is never needed to change minhagim, that is a misunderstanding of what a neder is.

        • Phil March 24, 2010, 10:29 PM

          AY,

          Last I heard was that someone that did a minhag 3 years in a row probably needs to annul the “vow”, unless they did so by “error”. Anyway, I plan to ask someone quite knowledgeable over Shabbos just to find out for sure.

          Still don’t think I’ll convince my dad, my mom you be too against it. I almost feel like the “yetzer hara” when I bring it up, I see him get a twinkle in his eye then he’ll take a look at my mom and change his mind.

          As for me, we never made Pessach for the first 10 or 11 years of marriage. When I went to my parents, we were non Gebroks, and at my in laws it was matzah balls. When we finally made our first Pessach, I told my wife I’m fine either way, she preferred gebroks, so that’s what do. When my parents come over, we make sure not to serve anything gebroks.

  • "Rabbi No" March 24, 2010, 2:46 PM

    I love it….. You poor guys are stuck eating potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes. Wonder if ExLax is kosher for passover? From a Deal living sephardic, I will more than glad to ‘convert’ you Ashkenazim into the faith. Hey, we are forbiden to convert non-jews, but the edict never made mention of you poor pasty-faced Ashkenazi souls….

    • A. Nuran March 24, 2010, 3:20 PM

      I’m glad my family has both Sephardic and Ashkenazi members. It makes the cooking a lot more interesting. And yes, the Sephardim are infinitely better and more imaginative cooks on average. Maybe it’s because the Ashkenazi are from a very small part of one continent. And with the exception of France and Hungary it’s a cold inhospitable place with very few things to eat. But the Sephardim? Everything from Lisbon to Rabat to Bokhara, Cairo, Bombay and Rome.

      • Heshy Fried March 24, 2010, 4:08 PM

        As you said there’s not much one can do with potatoes and frozen meat

      • Phil March 24, 2010, 4:16 PM

        Nuran,

        Even though my mom is Hungarian, there is no contest when it comes to Tunisian cooking. Luckily for us, my dad spends most of his time in the kitchen, and he taught my mom many of his recipes.

  • Phil March 25, 2010, 6:42 PM

    To all those interested,

    I checked with a competent Rabbi, seems like my dad would need hatarat nedarim to revert to his old customs, and not the standard kind we do every year before Rosh Hashana. He would need to specify the kitniyot thing.

    As for me, it’s more complicated. Whether or not my dad reverted to his old custom, I would need an “important or valid reason” to do so in addition to hatarat nedarim. Not sure what an “important or valid reason” would be, I’m assuming that not having rice or beans for a week is important enough.

    As for Gebroks, he confirmed that what I did was fine, as it’s categorized as a more “lenient” chumra.

    As for eating lamb for the seder , there is no problem whatsoever, anyone may do so provided it isn’t roasted.

    • "Rabbi No" March 26, 2010, 11:20 AM

      “Tir’chaa”, I believe, as represented in halacha would be a valid enough reason for you to be able to revert back to your ancestral heritage. You eat rice every week, and possibly “Hami’n” if your Sephardic (a/k/a “chulent” for the askenazic breatheren) every Shabbat. So for you to go out of your way and eat boiled, fried and baked potatoes for eight days (let alone the gastric imbalances that will occur) is enough to rely on as “important or valid reason”. Disclosure: I am neither a posek nor a rabbi, but as my moniker details many Rabbis are fast to say “No” when asked “Rabbi, can I do this….?” than to actually research the halacha in detail among the traditional codices of halacha such as Shulchan Aruch and Rambam or contemporary poskim as Chacham Ovadia Yosef or Askenazic Poskim , in their She’elot Utshuvot.

  • Phil March 26, 2010, 11:36 AM

    Rabbi “No”,

    I don’t eat rice more than once or twice a week, and I’m one of those “Kofrim” that don’t enjoy chulent (OI prefer Chili or Beurgeul). I can’t stand gefilte fish or herring either, so culinarely speaking I’m 200% sefardi.

    As kitniyot is based in the shulchan Aruch and we’ve been following that rule since I was a kid, it is a big decision to try to circumvent it by finding a loophole, especially when I get by fine on Matza, prunes, meat and wine. If my dad can forgo his childhood minhagim just to please my mom, I think I can live without rice and corn for a few days.

    BTW, I love the “rabbi no” moniker. Sadly, it true too often.

  • Phil March 27, 2010, 9:29 PM

    Rabbi no,

    I liked the article, as to the last sentence, if only life were that simple…

  • Sephardi March 13, 2012, 2:39 AM

    Phil,

    The best part about this, is that it IS that simple… the Shulchan Aruch was written for Sepharadim and Ashkenazim… the Rama wrote where things differed for Ashkenazim… They are BOTH Jews and they are BOTH Jewish.

    when you pass on after 120 years.. they arent going to ask”did you do Hatarat Nedarim on being Jewish?” (i.e. whether you follow the Shulchan Aruch or the Rama, you are STILL Jewish and STILL observant!!!!)

    • Crowin' Cock March 13, 2012, 4:58 AM

      Sephardi,

      It isn’t that simple, trust me, I looked into it. The “hatarat nedarim” loophole is complicated, and really depends on the situation, who you follow, etc.

      I know a Sephardi Rabbi that went to an ashkenaz yeshiva. As Sephardim are stricter regarding bishul akum than ashkenazim (turn oven on isn’t enough), he didn’t know wheter or not he could eat the food there. The ashkenaz rabbi told him to do hatarat nedarim in order to be allowed to eat. I found it strange, as he never had any ashkenaz mihag to begin with, so I don’y know what he was being matir.

      Contrast this with the Chabad rabbi I asked about myself. Coming from a BT background and my dad growing in North Africa (eating rice, peas and lamb on Pesach), one would think that I’d be able to do hatarat nedarim and be able to switch / revert. Rabbi said I’d need a “valid” reason to do so, no just because I’m hungry or like the way rice tastes.

      Minhag seems to overrride halacha in most cases today, I can go on forever about all the discrepancies you find between Shulchan aruch and what people actually do. Mainly based on a Gemara in Berachot, I forgot which rabbis were involved. One was doing something against the general ruling, his excuse was that he saw his rabbi doing it, so it was OK.

      Today, most people follow traditions based on what they saw their rabbis or grandmothers doing, even though it has no halachic basis. To them, it becomes more important. And I’m not talking about a couple quacks, I’m talking about entire sects.

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