Question: I customarily observe several stringencies during Pesach, for instance, regarding Kashrut issues. If I am invited to someone else’s home during Pesach, may I eat there?
Answer: If one observes stringencies regarding several laws but the stringencies are not mandated by the letter of the law, for instance, if one only abides by a specific Kashrut supervision, if one does not consume commercially-produced food products during Pesach, or if one only consumes Shemura Matzah on Pesach, and the like, and now finds one’s self being hosted by family members or friends who do not abide by the same stringencies, must one abstain from partaking of any foods there because the vessels and utensils have all absorbed flavor from the foods one customarily has abstained from or is it permissible for one to partake of such foods when one is a guest?
The first Posek to discuss this issue was the great Radbaz, Rabbeinu David ben Zimra, in his responsa (Volume 4). There was an incident where several sages in a certain city abstained from eating meat slaughtered by certain ritual slaughterers since they were not so careful regarding some of the details of the slaughtering process (although there was no concrete prohibition proven). It so happened that one of the noblemen of the city invited these sages to his home for meal and those sages refused to eat because they claimed that the individual must kasher his dishes and vessels since he had cooked meat slaughtered by the above people and according to their stringent behavior, these dishes had absorbed flavor from non-kosher meat and could not be used.
The Radbaz writes that what these sages did by prohibiting this nobleman’s dishes was incorrect for several reasons. Firstly, most slaughterers were acting in accordance with Halacha. Secondly, the flavor absorbed by the dishes does not retain the same law as the foods themselves. He proceeds to provide proofs and sources for the fact that using dishes absorbed with a given flavor is not tantamount to eating the foods themselves.
The Radbaz continues and writes that in a situation where there is no clear and present prohibition, one should not make waves by making changes that may create hard feelings and strife. Since there were many doubts involved here, there was room for leniency and the sages being hosted were permitted to eat the foods they were served in the nobleman’s home.
The Radbaz writes that even he would customarily eat out in other people’s homes even though they had cooked eggplants and in his opinion, eggplant was a form of fruit which would subject it to the laws of Orla (meaning that fruits grown during a trees first three years of being planted are forbidden for consumption and benefit; most eggplants are grown during those initial three years). Nevertheless, he writes, “I do not abstain from people’s homes although they surely eat eggplants, for this is not a clear and present prohibition since some consider it a vegetable (which is not subject to the laws of Orla). Certainly, there is no reason to require them to kasher their dishes and make them appear like ignoramuses. Rather, one who wishes to act stringently should do so in one’s own home, for this causes needless strife, baseless hatred, and a desecration of Hashem’s name.”
Based on the above, the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a , rules in his Yalkut Yosef on the laws of Pesach (Chapter 453): “If one observes a certain stringency and is being hosted by those who do not, one may eat from their dishes and utensils and one should not insult them by not eating their food until they kasher their dishes.”
It goes without saying that we are not discussing an actual prohibition. However, if one knows that one’s host is not careful regarding the laws of Kashrut, such as milk and meat, Pesach, and the like, one should not eat his food at all, even if this will cause strife. One should be intelligent enough to avoid situations like these in the first place.