Question: In my parents’ home, we have customarily always abstained from eating dried fruits on Pesach. After my marriage, I have observed that my husband’s family eats dried fruits. Is their custom acceptable? Additionally, is it correct that one may not touch Chametz one finds in the street on Pesach?
Answer: The Rama writes in his gloss on Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 467, Section 8) that it is customary not to eat dried fruits on Pesach. The source for this custom is based on what the Rama himself writes in his commentary Darkei Moshe that some communities customarily abstain from eating dried fruits on Pesach because it was common in those times to dry the fruits in ovens next to where bread was being baked. Furthermore, it was common (and is still common even today) to sprinkle flour on figs in order to dry them. It is for this reason that they forbade eating dried fruits on Pesach.
Nevertheless, the custom of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews is to permit eating dried fruits on Pesach. However, the Poskim warn that care must be taken that dried figs contain no Chametz mixtures. Similarly, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l ruled that one may not purchase roasted walnuts and peanuts sold in the market without an adequate kosher for Pesach certification, for many times, flour is mixed into the salt which these nuts are coated with. (Responsa Chazon Ovadia, Volume 2, page 66)
When examining the words of the Poskim, we find that they were lenient regarding using certain foods during Pesach even without a specific Pesach certification. However, many of these rulings applied only in their times when food production was fairly uncomplicated. Nevertheless, nowadays when the food industry has become so technologically advanced, many times there are concerns present in almost every single food item, especially with regards to Pesach. It is therefore advisable when shopping for Pesach to only buy items with a respectable Kashrut supervision for Pesach.
Regarding our question, it seems that the family of the woman posing the question followed the Ashkenazi custom of abstaining from eating dried fruits on Pesach and they should continue observing their custom. The Sephardic husband has, nevertheless, acted leniently in accordance with his custom and he may continue to observe his custom as well.
Regarding the second question, if one is walking in the street on Pesach and sees bread or other Chametz items on the floor, one may not pick up the bread in order to put it on the side of the road and the like, for our Sages banned lifting Chametz on Pesach lest one come to eat it. Rabbeinu Yitzchak bar Sheshat writes in a response (Chapter 401) that even if one picks up the Chametz and intends specifically not to acquire it, it is likewise forbidden to lift it as a result of the decree of our Sages not to do so lest one eat from it. Maran Rabbeinu zt”l rules accordingly in his Chazon Ovadia-Pesach, page 68.
Summary: The Ashkenazi custom is not to eat dried fruits on Pesach. The Sephardic custom, on the other hand, is not to be concerned with this. If one finds Chametz on the street on Pesach, one should not pick it up, for our Sages forbade this lest one come to eat from it.