Halacha Date: 18 Adar 5777 March 16 2017
In the previous Halacha we have briefly discussed the primary laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach. We have explained that according to all communities, legumes such as rice and chick peas are not actual Chametz, for only grain products can be considered Chametz. However, Ashkenazim customarily banned eating Kitniyot on Pesach because it used to be common for grains of Chametz to become mixed with Kitniyot. They therefore customarily abstain from eating them.
“Annulment of Vows” in Order to Eat Kitniyot
Ashkenazi communities who customarily prohibit Kitniyot have no recourse to permit consuming Kitniyot on Pesach. Even if they perform the order of “Annulment of Vows,” this does not make it permissible; they are still bound by the custom of their community and they may not discard their custom by eating Kitniyot on Pesach.
Included in this prohibition is the use of soy sauce, eating rice, and the like.
However, Sephardic communities who have acted stringently until this point and abstained from eating rice and now have a certain need to eat rice, such as due to illness and the like, may be permitted to eat it as long as they perform the “Annulment of Vows” as prescribed by Halacha for the custom they have followed thus far. This is because the level of the prohibition that these Sephardic communities accepted upon themselves is not on the same level as the prohibition which the Ashkenazim accepted upon themselves. The Sephardim never accepted an actual “decree” upon themselves banning Kitniyot; rather, they customarily abstained from eating them as a precaution because Chametz would sometimes mix into the Kitniyot. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise in his Responsa Chazon Ovadia, Volume 2, page 55.
Vessels which have Absorbed Kitniyot
We have already explained that vessels which have absorbed actual Chametz may not be used on Pesach. This is because when vessels contain boiling hot Chametz foods, the walls of the vessel absorb some of the Chametz in them. Afterwards, when Pesach foods are cooked in the same vessel, the walls of the vessel release Chametz flavor into the food. For the same reason, we are always meticulous to separate meat and dairy dishes in order to avoid vessels absorbing from one another.
However, the prohibition of Kitniyot on Pesach is not as stringent as actual Chametz, for it is only an enactment which some customarily accepted due to Chametz concerns. Based on this, Hagaon Harav Yishmael HaKohen writes in his Responsa Zera Emet (Volume 3, Orach Chaim, Chapter 48) that if an Ashkenazi individual is being hosted by a Sephardic individual and the host prepares foods for the guest that are Kitniyot-free, the Ashkenazi may eat in his home without hindrance.
Although the Sephardic host’s vessels have absorbed some flavor from his own Kitniyot foods, this poses no issue, for this custom is only as an extra precaution and they never accepted it upon themselves as an actual prohibition. (This is especially true if we can assume that Kitniyot were not cooked in this vessel within the past twenty-four hours. Additionally, the Ashkenazi need not ask the Sephardi if Kitniyot were cooked in this vessel within twenty-four hours.)
Summary: Ashkenazim customarily prohibit consuming Kitniyot on Pesach. They cannot be lenient regarding this custom even if they have performed the order of “Annulment of Vows.” Sephardim who have thus far customarily abstained from this as well but now have some special need to eat Kitniyot, such as due to illness and the like, may indeed be lenient in this matter by performing an “Annulment of Vows."