Jewish communities throughout the world and especially in Israel have been blessed in recent decades to have Sephardim and Ashkenazim living in the same communities. There is even a high percentage of marriages between Sephardim and Ashkenazim leading to a variety of questions dealing with the variations in their Halachic practices. One such question is the issue as to whether Ashkenazim may eat at the homes of Sephardic Jews on Pesach.
Hacham Ovadia Yosef’s Responsum
Hacham Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yehaveh Da’at 5:32) rules that an Ashkenazic Jew may eat non-kitniyot food at a Sephardic Jew’s home on Pesach. He does not require special utensils that have not been used for kitniyot for the Ashkenazic guest. He bases his opinion on a similar ruling of the Rama (Orach Haim 453:1): “It is obvious that if kitniyot fell into food during Pesach, they do not render the food forbidden b’dieved (post facto).”
Accordingly, Hacham Ovadia argues the following:
It is clear that the food particles of kitniyot absorbed into pots in Sephardic homes that are released into non-kitniyot food do not forbid the food to Ashkenazim. Even if the utensils have been used within the past 24 hours (and are thus emitting a good taste), it is still permissible for Ashkenazim to eat from them, because there is surely more permissible food than there are kitniyot that emerge from the walls of the pot.
Precedents for Rav Ovadia’s Ruling
Hacham Ovadia cites several interesting precedents for his ruling. The first is a responsum of the Rama (132:15) regarding those who are strict about the issue of hadash (the prohibition against eating grain sown after Pesach, before the following year’s sixteenth of Nissan) in the Diaspora. Just as most observant Diaspora Jews today are lenient in this area, most observant Jews in pre-war Europe were lenient (see Mishnah Berurah 489:45). The Rama writes that those who adopt the strict position regarding hadash may nonetheless eat food that absorbed flavor from the utensils of those who are lenient about hadash. He reasons that, in his community, even those who are strict treat hadash only as a doubtful rabbinical prohibition (as opposed to the many authorities who consider hadash to be an absolute biblical prohibition even in the Diaspora). The Rama thus claims that the light nature of hadash facilitates eating food that may have absorbed its flavor from pots. The flavor of the hadash is nullified (bateil berov) by the non-hadash food.
Hacham Ovadia equates kitniyot to the Rama’s case of hadash. Kitniyot are also an unusually light prohibition, so one may be lenient regarding the flavor in pots that cooked kitniyot.
A second precedent cited by Hacham Ovadia is a ruling of the Radbaz (Teshuvot 4:496). His responsum discusses whether those who did not rely on a particular shohet may eat food cooked by those who did rely on him. The Radbaz rules leniently because he claims that the shohet in question was probably acceptable. Even those who do not rely on him for their actual meat could at least eat food cooked in utensils that absorbed the flavor of his meat. Again, writes Hacham Ovadia, we see that certain prohibitions are treated unusually lightly, so their flavor is permitted. Kitniyot, a mere custom of Ashkenazic Jewry, should also be treated this way.
Hacham Ovadia’s third precedent is an important ruling of the Rama in his gloss to the Shulhan Aruch (Y.D. 64:9). The Rama addresses a type of fat whose permissibility depended upon varying customs among Ashkenazic communities of his time. He permits members of the communities that abide by the strict view to eat food cooked in utensils of people in the lenient communities. The Rama reasons that the lenient communities were following a legitimate ruling of their halachic authorities. Even one who was strict about the actual fat did not need be strict about its flavor, because there is a valid opinion that permits the flavor.
From all of the above precedents, Hacham Ovadia concludes that there are certain light prohibitions where flavor is nullified when mixed with permissible food, and he asserts that kitniyot are one such prohibition.
Hacham Ovadia concludes his Teshuvah noting that the Torah’s way is peaceful and cites the Pasuk in Zechariah noting the need to balance Shalom and Emet. Hacham Ovadia consistently argued for the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities to live in peace and harmony as he similarly permits Sephardim to eat at Ashkenazic homes despite the issues (such Basar Halak—Glatt meat) in which Sephardic Jews adopt a more strict view. Although I counsel Ashkenazim to follow Hacham Ovadia’s ruling, one should consult his rabbi for a ruling.
Rabbi Haim Jachter is spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter