Kitniyot and Common Sense: R. Zvi Leshem's Guide

Rabbi Zvi Leshem, whose English article on Kitniyot I embedded here last year, has updated this article this real. Considering that the article was viewed thousands of times, it seems to have served a purpose and spoken to a real need. He takes a balanced, commonsense approach (which confirmed a lot of the ideas I began outlining here). There's a definite trend afoot - at least in Israel - for Ashkenazim to take a long look at the restrictions of kitniyot and take back much of what has fallen under its rubric in recent generations. The the article by R. Yehuda Fris that appeared in Tehumin (which can be found at the end of this thread) remains the most comprehensive guide in Hebrew, but R. Leshem's Hebrew and English articles are well presented and easily accessible. Without further ado:


מנהג הקטניות


The Biur Hametz Project

Last week, I posted about an idea for a project to change how we perform the mitzva of Bi'ur Hametz, namely, by giving it away instead of burning it and/or selling it. The project just got some momentum when Beit Hillel, a new Israeli rabbinical organization (of which I am a member) endorsed the idea in a press release. In Modi'in, I'm working together with a local charity organization to collect food for both Jews and non-Jews - goods that can be stored will be sold and distributed to Jews after Pesach, while items that would otherwise go bad will be given to needy non-Jews (specifically, asylum-seekers and refugees living in Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv) before Pesach. More info is available on the project FB page here, and info on local collection sites appears on this spreadsheet. To add another location, use this form.

Perhaps another post will address why I think initiatives like this are so important.

Here's the (Hebrew followed by English) text of the press release from Beit Hillel:

פרוייקט "ביעור חמץ"

השנה, במקום לבער את החמץ שלנו במדורה או למכור אותו לאדם שאינו יהודי, אנו מציעים להשתמש בחמץ לעשיית צדקה

כידוע, יש מצוה להשבית את כל השאור והחמץ מבתינו בערב פסח, ובכל קהילות ישראל המנהג נפוץ לבער את החמץ במדורה. עם זאת, לפעמים אנו שורפים אוכל שאפשר היה לנצל. כמו כן, לפעמים אנו מבערים דברים שאינם אסורים להחזיק בפסח – למשל קטניות לאשכנזים – אבל לא יחזיקו מעמד למשך החג. זאת ועוד, עינינו רואות שיש כאלה ששורפים שקיות ואריזות, שכמובן אינם "חמץ" ובכך מזהמים את האויר.

לכן, אנו מציעים לחבר מצוה למצוה ונשבית את השאור והחמץ מבתינו על ידי נתינתו לאנשים נזקקים בשני אופנים:

את החמץ שניתן לשמור עד לאחר החג אנו ממליצים לקבץ ולמכור באופן מרוכז במכירה הרגילה, כדי לחלקו לעניים לאחר החג (שהרי עבור העניים זהו הפסד מרובה ומותר למכור חמץ לכתחילה עבור כך).

את החמץ שלא יחזיק מעמד עד לאחר הפסח, ניתן לאנשים נזקקים שאינם יהודים אשר לא חלים עליהם האיסורים של חמץ בפסח. אנו קוראים לתרום את כל סוגי החמץ באופנים הנ"ל, ובכך "כל דיכפין ייתי וייכל."

בעיר מודיעין, ארגון "עזר מודיעין" יאסוף מוצרים שיחזיקו מעמד עד אחרי החג ויחולקו ליהודים נזקקים, כמו גם מוצרי חמץ שלא יחזיקו מעמד – לחם, אריזות פתוחות, וכד' – שיחולקו בערב פסח לנזקקים שאינם יהודים.

בברכת חג כשר ושמח.

The “Biur Hametz” Project

This year, instead of burning our hametz in a bonfire or selling it to a non-Jew, we propose using it for the mitzva of tzedaka.

As is well known, it is a mitzva to dispose of all hametz and leaven from our homes before Pesach. Throughout the Jewish world, this is accomplished this by burning the hametz in a large communal bonfire. Nevertheless, sometimes we burn food that could have been salvaged (and eating is considered a bona fide method of disposal). Additionally, we sometimes burn food items that need not be disposed of – for example, kitniyot for Ashkenazim – but that would go bad before the end of Pesach. Moreover, many people burn plastic packaging and bags, items which are not hametz but do pollute the air when burned.

Therefore, we propose combining one mitzva to another and disposing of our hametz by giving it to those who need it, in one of two ways:

We recommend giving hametz that would keep until after Pesach be collected and sold together in the regular way, and then distributed to the Jewish needy after the holiday.

Hametz that would not keep until after Pesach will be given to needy non-Jews, for whom the prohibition against consuming hametz on Pesach does not apply.

We recommend donating all of our hametz in these two ways, thereby fulfilling what it says in the Haggadah: “all who are hungry, let them come and eat.

In the city of Modi'in, the "Ezer Modi'in" organization is collecting items that will last until after Pesach for distributing to needy Jews, and hametz items that will not last, like loaves of bread and open packages, which will be distributed to needy non-Jews on the day before Pesach

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday.


The Toulouse Killer and the Pastoureaux

I posted a theory about the Toulouse killer, connecting him with a massacre of the Jews in that same city in 1320, at the Times of Israel.This may be nothing more than a flight of my imagination, but on the off chance that there's something to it, and it somehow generates a lead on finding the bastard, I consider it worth putting out there.

Binary Beinart

I live in Modiin, part of what Peter Beinart calls "democratic Israel," the part of the Holy Land that he deems worthy of vigorous embrace. But I have a problem - my parents and two of my sisters live across the Green Line. Tomorrow I have a family simcha in Samaria the West Bank "nondemocratic Israel". If I were to take Beinart's recommendation seriously and, like some of Israel's most prominent authors, refuse to visit settlements, I'd miss the bris. Perhaps I can ask for a hetter, a special dispensation to visit the banned-lands.

Let me say that I agree with Beinart's central premise, even if I disagree with his narrative about how it came to be: it is untenable for Israel to assert its control over [insert territorial term of choice here] without giving its Arab residents a horizon of citizenship, be it citizenship in Israel or an independent Palestine. But there are many reasons not to adopt Beinart's approach to this dilemma, one of which relates directly to my present situation.

Beinart proposes to combining a boycott of most of post-1967 Israel with a vigorous embrace of pre-1967 Israel (plus East Jerusalem). This does not merely entail drawing a line through territories, but also through families and friendships. He wants to put 300,000 Jews in cherem.

Israeli society definitely has its political, geographic, and conceptual fault lines. but the intimacy of Israeli society makes it impossible to imagine an absolute division of the Israeli Jewish citizen body into two distinct classes, as deep as the disagreements might be.


Occupy Bi'ur Hametz

In a recent post at the Times of Israel, I wrote about a project to encourage Israeli Jews to give away their hametz to needy non-Jews before the holiday. I understand that there are charities that collect sealed foods to distribute to needy Jews after the holiday, and I think that's wonderful and certainly don't want to take away from that. I'm focusing on the hametz and/or other non-kosher-for-Pesach products that would otherwise go bad over the course of the week.

There are two components - a "sur me-ra" and an "aseh tov":
The first component is to prevent dangerous situations that develop when there are large public bonfires with kids running around (a long-standing pet peeve of mine), not to mention the fact that people burn things (like plastic bags) that are pollutants and need not be burned.
The second component relates to the fact that there are plenty of needy people in Israel who are not Jewish, and who unfortunately are often neglected - and in this the religious community is no exception. My hope is that enough momentum will be generated that different communities can collect and distribute this surplus hametz where it is needed and at their discretion - whether among Druze, Bedouin, African asylum seekers, etc.

There's a Facebook "event" whose purpose is to coordinate volunteers once a critical mass is achieved. Please feel free to "attend", share, and invite others.

Hag kasher ve-sameah.