Mihnag in The Haye Adam—The Case of Kitniyot on Passover
Rabbi Abraham Danzig (1748–1820) was a leading posek in his day and wrote a number of authoritative legal works, including his two editions of the Haye Adam (1810 and 1818, respectively). His treatment of customs (minhagim) is of specific historical and contemporary interest. This discussion centers on one particular tradition, the prohibition against the Ashkenazi Jews to eat legumes (kitniyot) on Passover. Only the second edition of Haye Adam contains a chapter (klal) entitled “The Law of Things that are Prohibited because of Custom” and it is here that the topic of customs is greatly elaborated upon. The case of kitniyot exemplifies Rabbi Danzig’s understanding of minhag which motivated him to present an extended section on the laws of custom. This issue of kitniyot on Passover is, I suggest, an illustration of an exercise in rabbinical authority. The Haskalah and Reform movements of the eighteenth century constantly sought to contest rabbinical authority either explicitly or implicitly. The question can be posed: if there had been no opposition to the eating of legumes on Passover by groups opposing and challenging rabbinical authority would the rabbis have objected so vehemently? The non-Orthodox streams of Judaism challenged the prohibition of kitniyot (and with the contemporary reality in the State of Israel, where a majority of Sephardic Jews are permitted to eat legumes on Passover, and with the reasons for prohibition by the early rabbinical authorities no longer relevant today). Reality and conflict have once again impelled the rabbinic establishment to defend its authority. Based on Danzig’s approach, I conclude that the prohibition not to eat kitniyot on Passover, a religious custom, has been positioned within the codified laws of Passover with all their full authority, and no room for flexibility.
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Rabbi Danzig was born in 1748 and died in Vilna in 1820.
For a discussion of prohibition of eating kitniyot on Passover see Yisrael Ta-Shma, “Isur Kitniyot B’Pesach - Toldotav U’Pesharo” Asufot: Sefer Shana Lmadei Hayadut 3 (1999), 347–55 (Hebrew).
Mekhilta Rabbi Yishmael to Exodus 12:15.
B.T Pesahim 35a.
It is true that in the first decade of the thirteenth century, Sefer Haminhagot (Provence) cites R. Manoah’s gloss rejecting a prohibition of zeronim (pureed beans) in his comments to Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah Laws of Hametz Umatzah, 5:1. This section of Sefer Haminhagot is no longer extant.
Ta-Shma, “Isur Kitniyot B’Pesach” (1999), 276 ff.
The process of sealing by instant boiling, halita, was not understood in the sixteenth century and poskim no longer referred to it. Haye Adam forbids cooking or boiling kitniyot in water consonant with Maharil.
The Semak was authored by Rabbi Issac ben Joseph of Corbeil, died 1280.
Attributed to that of Rabbi Aaron Ha-Kohen, fourteenth century.
Born in Spain in 1488 and died in Safed, Israel in 1575.
I want to thank my friend and colleague Mr. Dashiell Ferguenson for this translation and commentary.
To seal them from fermenting (halita) as mentioned earlier.
See the Nishmat Adam on the Laws of Passover
(§ 20) where Rabbi Danzig (1748–1820) writes of an incident of severe famine in 1771 that caused a Beit Din in a place he refers to as ק”ק פיורדא in “Ashkenaz” [Fürth in Bavaria] to permit potatoes בולבעס which is called (in German/Yiddish) ערדעפיל (Erdapfel) because there they made the בולבעס (potatoes) into flour. [See Igrot Moshe ('או"ח חלק ג סימן ס"ג) regarding whether a particular species is included in the custom of kitniyot]. See the Sefer Ma’aseh Rav (§ 184) [which records the stringent opinion of Eliyahu (Gaon) of Vilna (1720–1797)] and the comment in Sha’ar HaTziun (§ 453 No. 6) [which cites the lenient opinion of Haye Adam] regarding kitniyot in an emergency situation.
This is Tartar Buckwheat, Fagopyrum tataricum, a domesticated plant not related to the grass family, which has a more bitter taste than common buckwheat.
The seeds of various species of Old World plants (white or yellow mustard or Sinapis hirta, brown or Indian mustard or Brassica juncea, and black mustard or Brassica nigra) are customarily ground and mixed with water, vinegar, and wine (the process is described by the Be’er Heitev § 464 No. 2), as well as other ingredients like flour. The use of this con-diment was widespread in Roman times, especially mustard seeds mixed with unfermented grape juice. The custom of refraining from mustard on Passover is found in the Rema (§ 464).
Saffron is a spice made from the dried flowers of Crocus sativus, native to southwest Asia. The word used by the Haye Adam זאפערן, appears in Mishnah Berurah (§ 168 No. 30) as זאפר"ן
The dried aromatic flowers of Syzygium aromaticum, an evergreen tree native to what is now Indonesia, and used as a spice in cooking. The word used by the Chayei Adam, נעגליך, appears to be based on the Dutch kruidnagel, and related to the German nelke or Gewürznelke.
Yiddish זענעפט (zeneft – the word used by the Hayei Adam) and the German Senf refer to black mustard.
Also see Responsa Noda b’Yehudah, vol. II (Prague, 1811), § 72.
In which case the law states the product cannot become hametz.
See Haye Adam, Laws of Passover (128:30).
See also Haye Adam, Laws of Fasts and Tishah b’Av (132:26).
Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal c.1510–1573 of Poland. His commentary on seven tractates [Bava Kama (Prague, 1618); Chullin (Krakow, 1635); Yevamos (Altona, 1740); Beitzah (Lublin, 1636); Kiddushin (Berlin, 1766); Gittin (Berlin, 1761); and Kesubos (Warsaw, 1850)] of the Talmud, entitled the Yam shel Shlomo, is widely influential.
See the Be’ur Halakhah on § 296 (ד"ה אם הוא חמר מדינה) regarding one that is careful not to drink liquor due to the concern of Hadash and the prob-lem of fulfilling the obligation of Havdalah over a cup of liquor.
See Hayei Adam, Laws of Passover (131:12) for the prohibition of eating hadash (5 grains which were planted after one Passover before the next has arrived.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (רמב״ן 1194–1270) of Gerona, Spain and the Land of Israel. Towering scholar and personality of his era and author of many works and most renowned for his commentaries on the Torah and the Talmud.
In his work Sha’arei Tzedek (11:23–24), Rabbi Danzig (1748–1820) addresses the matter of the Ashkenazim arriving in the land of Israel in his own time and how they should relate established presence of the Sefardim and customs.
I have translated the relevant sections of this responsa. I thank Professor H. Basser for his assistance.
See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 214.
He is troubled by this permission to abrogate kitniyot and suggests that perhaps it was because of the dire straits of the community. Yet since the custom was widespread throughout not to eat kitniyot it must be considered an enactment of the public at large which cannot be abrogated. He leaves their ruling as something he cannot resolve “vetsarich iyun.”
One could only wonder what Rabbi Danzig would rule today when potato starch (flour) is a basic for many of the Passover foods.
See Rabbi Danzig’s introduction where he discusses Hokhmat Adam.
A comparison of the first two editions will reveal an almost total rewriting of the Haye Adam’s laws of Passover. While this requires research into the rea-sons behind such changes this essay will only focus on the laws of kitniyot.
Yosef Ben-Lulu, “Kitniyot B’Peasach” PhD diss., Bar Ilan, 1998 p. 146–64 (Hebrew), has referenced the majority of the sources relating to this controversy. I will base the historical information on this work.
See Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995), 45–46.
As a result of the emancipation Jews were expected, as were all good citizens, to serve in the military.
Ben-Lulu, “Kitniyot B’Pesach (1998), 146.
Rabbi Sofer (1762–1839) was considered a leading rabbinic authority of his time.
Jacob Katz, Halakhah and Kabbalah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1984), 37 (Hebrew).
This homily was delivered for the Shabbat Hagadol sermon, Passover 1810.
Ben-Lulu, “Kitniyot B’Peasach” (1998), 154–65.
Menachem Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources and Principle, vol. 2. (Philkadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1994), 994.
See Golinken’s responsum of 1989.
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