February 25, 2013 13 Comments
The Orthodox Union has decided to let the let the nuts (that is, the so-called authorities who provide what they claim is rabbinic guidance, not to malign the delightful fruit of many trees) out of the cage once more. They published their annual list of insane additions to the prohibited foods category called kitniyot, and it has something particularly egregious:
The following may be Kitniyot and are therefore not used:
Quinoa— update, see below
Now, peanuts are a long debate, and most folks I know have the custom of not eating them (note the phrasing!). Amaranth is a specialty product, and I don’t have a dog in that fight. Quinoa, on the other hand, has become a flash point for the battle for the soul of Orthodox Judaism between those who think that the answer to modern questions lies in the reasoning of those came before us, and those who want to make it up as they go along. Yes, that is a harsh way of putting it, but I believe the harshness is justified and even required: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart;… You shall surely rebuke him” (Leviticus 19:17).
One of the decisors of the OU was concerned that quinoa would be prepared on machines which also prepare wheat, raising a concern of hametz (leaven). Another (R. Belsky) took an uncommon position that the category of kitniyot could be expanded, and characterized the position that held that quinoa would not be kitniyot as “lenient”.
In all of this, it should be noted that the Star-K, not known as a bunch of liberals, certifies quinoa for Passover.
The actual statement by the OU is to put quinoa in the category of “you can own it, feed it to a sick person, an infant, a pet, etc” – But leavened products aren’t allowed to be owned or eaten by pretty much anyone (except the grievously ill) and no benefit is allowed from them! So what to make of this?
My contention is that the OU is all over the place here, and does not have a good halakhic (or scientific) basis for what they are saying. Let’s do this in order:
1. If the OU are concerned that quinoa may be produced in a way that it could be mixed in with hametz, but it is not in fact hametz itself (no one says it is), then the answer is that you could say that it would require supervision. The OU did not say that.
2. If the OU are concerned about hametz, why in the world would they include this on a list of *kitniyot* products? I’m not allowed to feed *my dog* hametz, while I do feed my dog kitniyot. If there is a real concern of hametz, that is a Biblical prohibition, and allowing people to come close to that is untenable and is precisely the sin of “leading the community astray.”
3. Saying that the list of kitniyot is fixed isn’t the *lenient* opinion, it’s the *normative* opinion, per the Chayei Adam. That’s why we can have potatoes. The Chayei Adam said that thetakahna (decree) only affected the species that the rabbis who issued it knew about, so no new world plants could have been included. Denigrating the normal and calling it lenient is a violation of lo titgodedu (don’t cause schism), which is de-oraita (Biblical) (ie I eat quinoa, and will do so this year again, as poskened (ruled) by my rabbi [there is a valid opinion that it’s fine] – the OU position will lead to people not eating at each other’s houses).
4. “May be kitniyot”? Seriously? This is a takana (decree) not even a derabbanan (rabbinic commandment), and we have the principle “safek derabbanan l’kulah” (a doubt about a rabbinic issue is ruled leniently). So, nu, how precisely is saying “the following may be Kitniyot and are therefore not used” following that principle?
5. The biggest market for quinoa is the gluten free people *who have nothing to do with wheat or any of the five grains*, so, no, it’s extremely unlikely to have any wheat or other hametz in it, and if they left their ivory tower and got out a bit, they might have figured this out.
The OU is leading people astray with this, and they have much to answer for.
UPDATE: Victory! The OU has removed quinoa from the kitniyot list for the year! They left the weasel-category of “may be kitniyot” in place for peanuts and amaranth (which is not reasonable), but we can be heartened by the triumph of sanity. Yay!