Frume Sarah has been accused of many things over the years; being flexible is not one of them. I like what I like. I do what I do. I like what I do and change is not one of the things I either like or do.
(Are you still with me?)
Kitniyot. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Let’s take one step back and define chametz as understood by the rabbis. There are only five grains that according to Jewish law, can ferment and become chametz. These are wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye. [Times have certainly changed. When I was young, I can’t imagine where one might have found spelt. Today, spelt bread can be found in my neighbourhood Trader Joe’s.] It so happens that matzah can only be made using one of these five grains. Traditional Jewish law forbids eating, owning, or deriving benefit from these five grains in any amount and in any form throughout the holiday — with the obvious exception being when they are used to make matzah.
So far so good.
About seven hundred years ago, Ashkenazic practice began to forbid the consumption of rice, millet (I had no idea either. I had to look up millet.), and legumes (e.g. peas, beans, alfalfa, lentils, carob, soy, and peanuts). Corn was added to the verboten list at some point. These foodstuffs were termed kitniyot. Even before this practice, there were Talmudic discussions about the status of rice and millet, with a notable amount of disagreement.
More on the kitniyot conundrum here and here and here and here, with one of the best articles located here. Having spent hours and hours reading about kitniyot, one thing is clear; Jews of all levels of observance are wrestling with this issue.
I am conflicted. I didn’t used to be conflicted. That’s not to say I enjoyed abstaining from kitniyot or even that I agreed with the prohibition. I felt strongly, however, about upholding the culinary traditions that have been in my family for generations.
But life is more complicated when it’s touched by Asperger’s. Everything is affected by it. Eating habits are especially affected by it. And I am wondering if it is really worth it to engage in a practice that was described by several Rishonim, such as Rabbenu Yeruham (Beit Yosef OH 453), as “foolish.” Beernut is already complaining that he hates Pesach. And before you go pointing fingers, I have been extremely guarded about my own feeling about this chag in front of my children.
So, my dear readers, I ask you — shall I break with family custom in order to make a more enjoyable experience for my son?