17 April, 2008

Kitniyot Confusion

As we all likely know, Pesach (Passover) is upon us, and we've been busy shopping for unleavened products. Back in America, knowing what is kosher for Passover is pretty straightforward - either your product says OUP or it doesn't. Here, things can get a little complicated, as the majority of the population eat kitniyot, which we Ashkenazim are not (yet) allowed. Kitniyot is generally translated as legumes, like beans and peas, but every year the Jewish definition seems to spread out to include more and more products. I remember that as a kid we used peanut oil on Pesach, but now peanuts have become accepted as kitniyot, and not at all allowed. Quinoa, a recently popular (and quite yummy) seed, is totally unrelated to legumes, but is still looked upon with suspicion (it just seems too good to be true, I guess), and so some still don't eat it on Pesach.

Anyway, shopping here in Israel is usually fine, but finding non-kitniy
ot products isn't always easy. I once came upon some cookies that said in big letters "Kosher For Passover" - only after we brought them to our friends did we notice the small note on the other side of the box that "for kitniyot-eaters only." Although I haven't seen anything since then that was quite so misleading, getting the hang of what's what can be tricky.

Here's a box I really appreciated - with a huge, clear marking on the front:

Most packages aren't quite so forthcoming. A lot of products keep the same year-round label, but add some information to the timestamp. This one says "kashlap," which is the abbreviation for "Kosher Le(For) Pesach."

Sometimes a year is included on the label, which seems a bit strange.

I mean, it may be unwise to eat a product from a previous year, but does it make it less kosher for Pesach? It seems to me that people can rely on the kosher label for the kosher information, and the date stamp for the date information. Of course, I don't get consulted on this very much...

I've never understood this one - maybe someone out there can enlighten me.

It says "Kasher Le Pesach Erev Pesach, which I understand to mean that it was made before Pesach. Maybe this is some kind of stringency that I don't know about?

Now, sometimes the organization that supervises the general kashruth of a product is not the same as the one who does the Passover supervision. In that case, each organization can only testify to what they've done, s
o on the same package, it will say "Kosher during the year, but not for Pesach" and then, elsewhere, say "Kosher Le Pesach." This to me seems ridiculous - surely there's some less confusing way to put the label together. Here's an example, with the conflicting decrees on the top and bottom of the same can:

This is the same concept, I think, but really bizarre.

Here, the label reads:
"Only during the year"
Kosher Le Pesach

What's with the quotes? Is the can being sarcastic? I guess here it's one organization supervising both situations, but the "only" kind of throws you off - it seems to me that it would be clearer if it used "also" instead.

And now we come to the kitniyot. Here's how the basic kitniyot-only label reads:

It just says "Kosher Le Pesach, for those who eat kitniyot." Pretty easy.

This year, I saw one that I don't remember from previous years. It's not so exciting, but it was new for me. It says "Kosher Le Pesach, from kitniyot."

And here's the one that makes me stop in the aisle and start talking to myself, trying to work out what the heck it means:

It says, Kosher Le Pesach, also for those who don't eat kitniyot. Of course, now that I've written it out in English it looks pretty easy, but in Hebrew, the positives and negatives get me all mixed up, every time, and I have to start thinking it out. "Okay, I'm the one who doesn't eat kitniyot, so it IS okay... for me... yeah, this one is okay." Phew.

Good thing this only lasts for one or two shopping trips. Happy Pesach!


Dina said...

The before Pessach labeling is due the fact that Chametz is Batel B'Shishim when mixed into non Chametz products before Pessach, but not Batel at all if it was mixed in on Pessach. So people who want to be even more suspicious and Machmir purchase only things that were produced before Pessach to make extra sure that even teh minutest spec of Chametz that MAY be in the product is that which is Batel B'Shihsim (from before PEssach). Happy shopping!

toby said...

Hi Dina!
Thanks for that - it's always good to learn new things. Actually, I had thought that chametz was NEVER batel beshishim, so this is relatively good news :)
All the best,

Anonymous said...

Actually Milk bought in the States as well must be bought/produced before Pesach for the same reason. Cows and Haametz are the same everywhere


Anonymous said...

Great post!

A few things:

1) I think the year is to prevent fraud - at least last years labels wont be reused.

2) Often the Badatz won't give a kosher l'pesach hasghacha, when the rabbanut will. I remember when I worked in a factory that had mashgichim from both - it was pretty silly since they both came in the same car and watched the same processes.

3) I think the issue with "l'lo ochlei kitniyot" is that "l'lo" generally means "without". So a literal translation would be "without kitniyot eaters" which is certainly not the intention. They mean to say "for those that don't eat kitniyot." Maybe a better phrase would be לנמנעים מאכילת קטניות

toby said...

Yechiel - thanks, I didn't know that.

And dave, thanks for your insight. I have to say, the "ochlei kitniyot" does always make me stop to think, but I don't honestly think that I've ever thought that there were kitniyot eaters in the ingredients :) It's an interesting theory, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm grateful for the year being posted...there's a store in Chicago that's infamous for trying to get rid of last year's stuff at the beginning of every Pesach season...so you have to be sure to shop late enough not to get the old stuff...and I wish every maunfacturer would put the year on, for that reason! The rest of this is extremely interesting! Mom

Yehudha said...

I thought "le-okhele qitniyyoth parve" was interesting. Using the Yiddish word instead of the Hebrew (sethami) makes it look like it was aimed at Ashkenazi customers even though it has qitniyyoth....

toby said...

yehudha - that's an interesting insight. Although I know that the proper Hebrew word for pareve is "s'tami," I've never actually seen it used in labeling any grocery store foods, so I guess that's why I didn't notice the dichotomy.
It reminds me of another funny thing, though. There's a synagogue in Rochester, NY, that's located on St. Regis Drive, and is therefore generally referred to as St. Regis Shul. That's pretty funny on it's own, but it gets better: the proper name of the synagogue (and it reads on the sign) is: Congregation Beth Hakneses Hachodosh. If that's not a funny combination, I don't know what is...

Yehudha said...

Yes, nowadays in Israel all labels use the Yiddish word. I'm not sure why.
The spelling has also changed: פרווה (fur?) instead of פארווע

toby said...

I'm not that familiar with Yiddish, but I have seen quite a few spelling variations on that word. One vav, two vavs, with an alef, without an alef, with an ayin, with a heh... the combinations seem endless, until you realize that you've seen them all:)