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Kitniyot (Hebrew: קִטְנִיּוֹת‎‎, qitniyyot) is a Hebrew word meaning legumes.[1] During the Passover holiday, the word kitniyot takes on a broader meaning to also include, in addition to legumes, grains and seeds such as rice, corn, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, peas, and lentils.[2]

According to Orthodox Ashkenazi laws, Kitniyot may not be eaten during Passover by Jews.[3] Although Reform and Conservative Ashkenazi Judaism currently allow for the consumption of Kitniyot during Passover, long-standing tradition in these and other communities is to abstain from their consumption.[4]

Laws and customs[edit]

The Torah (Exodus 13:3) only prohibits Jews from eating chametz during Passover. Chametz is leaven made from the "five grains": wheat, spelt, barley, shibbolet shu'al (two-rowed barley, according to Maimonides; oats according to Rashi) or rye. There are additional rabbinic prohibitions against eating these grains in any form other than matzo.

Among Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, the custom (minhag) during Passover is to refrain from not only products of the five grains but also other grains and legumes. Traditions of what is considered kitniyot vary from community to community but generally include maize (North American corn), as well as rice, peas, lentils, and beans. Many also include other legumes, such as peanuts and soy, in this prohibition.[5] The Chayei Adam considers potatoes not to be kitniyot because they were unknown in the time when the prohibition was created, an opinion followed today by nearly all Ashkenazi authorities.[6]

Sephardic and Yemenite Jews have not traditionally observed a prohibition on eating kitniyot on Passover, although some groups do abstain from the use of dried pulses during Passover.


The Halakhic argument (the argument according to Jewish law and tradition) against eating kitniyot during Passover originated in early medieval France and Provence and later flourished in high medieval Ashkenazi (Rhineland) Germany.

The original reasons behind the custom of not eating kitniyot during Passover are not clear, though two common theories are that these items are often made into products resembling chametz (e.g. cornbread), or that these items were normally stored in the same sacks as the five grains and people worried that they might become contaminated with chametz. It is also possible that crop rotation would result in the forbidden chametz grains growing in the same fields, and being mixed in with the kitniyot. Those authorities concerned with these three issues suggested that by avoiding eating kitniyot, people would be better able to avoid chametz. Since Jewish law is quite stringent about the prohibition against chametz in the house during Passover, even in small amounts, a tradition developed to avoid these products altogether.[6]

Vilna Gaon (Hagaos HaGra, ibid.) proposes a different source for this custom. The Gemara in Pesachim (40b) notes that Rava objected to the workers of the Exilarch cooking a food called chasisi on Pesach, since it was wont to be confused with chametz. Tosafot understand that chasisi are lentils, and thus, argues Vilna Gaon, establishes the basis for the concern for kitniyot. Rabbi David Golinkin in the Responsa of the Masorati (Conservative) Movement cites Rabbenu Manoah (Provence, ca. 1265) who wrote an opinion in his commentary on Maimonides (Laws of Festivals and Holidays 5:1) that "It is not proper to eat kitniyot on holidays because it is written (in Deuteronomy 16:14) that ‘you shall rejoice in your festivals’ and there is no joy in eating dishes made from kitniyot". Lentils were a food of mourners.

Even where the prohibition against kitniyot was practiced, some poskim opposed it, among them Rabbi Yeruham of 14th century Provence.[7][8] Others, including Rav Moshe Feinstein did not advocate abandoning the custom, but he opposed expanding the list of forbidden kitniyot [9]

Modern Judaism and Kitniyot[edit]

Reform Jewish authorities, such as the Responsa Committee of the Reform Jewish Movement for the principal organization of Reform rabbis in the United States and Canada, have also ruled in favor of permitting kitniyot.[10][11] Reform Judaism first formally permitted eating kitniyot during Passover in the 19th century.[12]

While most Conservative Jews observe the tradition of avoiding kitniyot during Passover, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, an authoritative body in Conservative Judaism, issued two responsa in December 2015 that said it was now permissible to eat these previously prohibited foods throughout the world.[13][14][15] These responsa were based on a 1989 responsa by the Responsa Committee of the Israeli Conservative Movement that permitted Conservative Jews in Israel to eat kitniyot.[8] While eating kitniyot has become more common in Israel, due in large part to the influence of Sephardic Jewish food customs, it is not yet clear whether Conservative Jews in other parts of the world will embrace the new rulings or continue to refrain from kitniyot.[16][17]

Some Orthodox rabbis, such as David Bar-Hayim at 'Beth HaWaad' beth din of Machon Shilo and Conservative Rabbi David Golinkin of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, have argued that the prohibition of kitniyot, while appropriate in Eastern Europe where the Askenazi tradition began, should not apply to the United States or Israel.[18][7][8][19][20] According to The Forward, some Israelis are choosing a more permissive rabbinical interpretation of kitniyot, which allows for the consumption of a wider range of formerly banned items,[21][22][23] and some Ashkenazi Jews in Israel who are married to Sephardic Jews have adopted the Sephardic custom. However, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and other Orthodox organizations still maintain that the prohibition is binding on all Ashenazic Jews worldwide.[24] The Orthodox Union maintains a kitniyot hechsher intended for non-Ashkenazic Jews who consume kitniyot on Passover.[25]

In the 1930s, Maxwell House coffee hired the Joseph Jacobs advertising firm in the 1930s to market to a Jewish demographic.[26] The agency hired a rabbi to research coffee, resulting in a determination that the coffee bean is more like a berry than a bean, thus making it kosher for Passover.[27]


  1. ^ קִטְנִיּוֹת (in Hebrew). Morfix. Retrieved March 31, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kitniyot List - Passover". OU Kosher. Orthodox Union. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "What is Kitniyot?". Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  4. ^ "A plea for ‘kitniyot’". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Mathes-Scharf, Arlene. "Why is This Food Different from Other Foods? Kashrus/Passover and Modern Food Processing". Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "What is Kitniyot? - Passover". OU Kosher. Orthodox Union. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Golinkin, "The Kitniyot Dilemma, Kolot Vol 6, No. 3, page 10, Spring 2013
  8. ^ a b c Golinkin, David (1989). "Eating Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach". Responsa for Today. Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  9. ^ Igrot Moshe, Orah Hayyim 3. 63
  10. ^ Berk, Eric. "Food Restrictions on Passover Explained". Reform 
  11. ^ "PESACH KASHRUT AND REFORM JUDAISM". CCAR RESPONSA. Central Conference of American Rabbis. 1995. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  12. ^ Sanchez, Tatiana (21 April 2016). "Passover to include new food options this year". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Schoenfien, Lisa (April 14, 2016). "Conservative Movement Overturns 800-Year-Old Passover Ban on Rice and Legumes". The Forward. 
  14. ^ Golinkin, David (24 December 2015). "Rice, beans and kitniyot on Pesah – are they really forbidden?" (PDF). Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Rabbinical Assembly. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Levin, Amy; Reisner, Avram Israel (November 2015). "A Teshuvah Permitting Ashkenazim to Eat Kitniyot on Pesah" (PDF). Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Rabbinical Assembly. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  16. ^ Green, Ann (April 16, 2016). "To Kitniyot or Not to Kitniyot, Passover's New Question". Jewish Boston. 
  17. ^ Holzel, David (April 12, 2016). "Rabbis Expand the Passover Menu-- But Will Conservative Jews Bite?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). 
  18. ^ Weiss, Ruchama; Brackman, Levi (31 March 2010). "Rabbis: 'Kitniyot rebellion' continues". Jewish World. Ynetnews. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  19. ^ "Beth HaWaadh Permits Eating of Kitniyoth by all Jews in Israel During Pesach". Machon Shilo (Press release). 20 March 2007. Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. 
  20. ^ "פסק הלכה בענין מנהג אי-אכילת קטניות בפסח" [Halachic Ruling on the Custom of Eating Kitniyot on Passover] (PDF) (in Hebrew). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 May 2007. 
  21. ^ Nathan Jeffay (1 April 2009). "Pesach Kitniyot Rebels Roil Rabbis As Some Ashkenazim Follow New, Permissive Ruling". The Forward. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  22. ^ Jeffay, Nathan (April 1, 2009). "Pesach Kitniyot Rebels Roil Rabbis As Some Ashkenazim Follow New, Permissive Ruling" (News, Community News). The Forward Association, Inc. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Ahren, Raphael (Apr 15, 2011). "Efrat rabbi tilts against Passover food restrictions for Ashkenazi Jews" (Home Weekend Anglo File). Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Luban, Yaakov; Gersten, Eli (4 March 2015). "Curious about Kitniyot?". Jewish Action. Orthodox Union. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  25. ^ "IN TIME FOR PASSOVER 2013, OU KOSHER ANNOUNCES NEW “OU KITNIYOT” CERTIFICATION SYMBOL". OU Kosher (Press release). Orthodox Union. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  26. ^ Berger, Joseph (April 8, 2011). "Giving a Haggadah a Makeover". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2013. 
  27. ^ Italie, Leanne (March 22, 2011). "New Maxwell House Haggadah out for Passover". Washington Post. The Associated Press. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 

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