Passover & Cornstarch Column Oddity

Given its primary audience would be Jews, this column has an interesting reference: “around 10th or 11th Century AD.”

Rather than identifying a year as BC or AD, Before Christ or Anno Domini, Year of Our Lord, many religious scholars and the vast majority of Jews will instead use BCE or CE, Before Common Era and Common Era.

It would have been sufficient had it just read “around 10th or 11th Century” without the AD. The message would then have been the same.

Link to the column.

I do want to clarify one thing:

Cornstarch doesn’t make something hametz on Pesach even for Ashkenazi Jews. Not eating kitnyot is merely a custom. An Ashkenazi Jew can possess cornstarch on Pesach and even possibly make something containing cornstarch for their Sephardic friends.

The Talmud mentions five grains that are prohibited on Pesach because they were chametz. It was also recognized that other unknown grains could be made into bread that could rise, and thus would also be prohibited. Two grains unknown at the time of the Talmud were rye and oats – both recognized as hametz by all Jews. As other grains were discovered (like millet and corn) a question arose whether these were also possibly hametz.

My son whose a Rabbi has been studying the history of kitnyot on Passover. He said the earliest forms of the practice was in France in the 7th and 8th century when French Jews developed a custom not to eat rice. Later on, other grains were decided to also be kitnyot – usually by misunderstanding.

One of the most interesting things about kitnyot is that we know when a custom not to eat certain grains arose because Rabbis would write letters explaining why this particular grain is not prohibited. We see letters from Rabbis in France stating that it’s okay to eat rice. We see letters explaining that beans are okay in the tenth century in Germany which means German Jews started avoiding beans. Declaring whether something is kitnyot seems more lead by the masses than by the Rabbis.

This also explains why Maxwell House Coffee is so closely connected to Passover. In the 1920s, many Jews stopped drinking coffee on Passover because they thought coffee was kitnyot (it’s made out of coffee beans). Maxwell House started a campaign to get leading Rabbis to declare that coffee is permitted on Passover. Maxwell House used ads to wish Jews a happy Passover and to enjoy Maxwell Haggadahs for Passover.

I would dispute the bolded portion, unless you have demographic statistics demonstrating the readership of that particular column.

I would contend, with as much evidence but probably more accuracy, that the primary audience of that column is the usual assortment of riff-raff, atheists, troublemakers, layabouts, and ne’er-do-wells that populates this board.

I won’t speak to the editorial standards of The Dope, other than observing (as a reader) that it’s somewhat uneven, and largely down to the individual writer. You’ll see differences in practice and voice between The Cecil Himself and his assorted Staff Writing minions. But certainly, I wouldn’t be caught dead suggesting Cecil chose wrongly in using the more common “AD” and “BC” annotations rather than the (perhaps) more academically-preferred “CE” and “BCE”.

Since Israel (and, correspondingly, Judaism) appears to have existed since the 12th Century BCE, it would actually not have been precise enough to merely say “10th Century”. (Why leave it to context when two little letters would clear up the ambiguity?)

But come, let’s be specific here. I am guessing you’re not objecting to using an epochal identifier; you’re objecting to using an epochal identifier which contains “Christ” in discussions of Judaism.

Cool story.

We used to use that one when I was a kid, which made me all the more amazed and pleased when I found out how many varied and beautiful other Haggadot are in print.

Related, in a way, is that Kosher-for-Passover Coca Cola was talked about even by non-Jews as a thing–certainly in New York–because up until very recently it was the only Coke available that, for that limited time, used cane sugar instead of corn syrup. (Corn is kitniyot? Who knew?)

A Polish-Jewish girl I know married a Syrian Jew, and the first words from practically everyone I knew were “Mazel tov! Now you can eat rice on Passover!”

If you can make bread out of it, it’s kitniyot. Ergo, corn.

And it’s not just Coke. Dr Pepper makes the seasonal change to my certain knowledge.

This is still a bit confusing. Am I correct that you are saying that the grains themselves are not (c)hametz, only the stuff made with them? Because, otherwise, I can’t make sense of why cornstarch isn’t hametz but rye is. Both were not specifically mentioned, discovered later, and are used to make leavened breads.

It would seem that both would have to be kitnyot or neither.

Also, can you eat unleavened bread made with other grains?

I will just comment that rye contains gluten and will rise. Neither corn nor rice does. Yes, you can make cornbread but any rising is with baking soda. Same with rice. I have an aunt with severe celiac disease and she is fine with rice and corn, but even a bit of rye will do her in for a couple weeks.

Here’s what a food scientist at MIT had to say on the matter. If you can’t believe MIT, where else can you put your faith? So to speak.

Regarding this, the vast majority of Jews roll their eyes at people who fight about “BC” vs “BCE”. Because…really…what IS the “Common Era”? Why…it’s the birth of Christ (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s not really his birthday.)

Oh, said news little girl…

According to halachah, you can make kitniyot for your husband, but you’re not suppose to eat it yourself. You have to sit their and watch your hubby enjoy the rice while you chew on a stale piece of matzah.

Of course, the other way around, if a Sephardic woman married an Ashkenaz man, neither would be able to make or eat kitniyot.

I’m Sephardic because I was …out voted… I grew up with practically no traditions, and married a Iraqi woman who had some very strong traditions (why is everyone hitting each other with green onions when they sing Dyanu?)

Because of that, we’ve been going to a Sephardic synagogue, and my kids all grew up with Sephardic traditions. My oldest is a blue-eyed, German-surnamed, Sephardic Rabbi who leads prayers with an Iraqi accent.

This year, he wanted to make his own matzah, and we baked it in our house. (My wife’s family has actually a tradition of making their own matzah). This year, my entire family decided we’re Sephardic and I, after 30 years of marriage acquiesced.

For 30 years, my wife has been complaining about not being able to eat rice on Passover, and this year, when I got her rice, and she found out she had to check it three times, she told me she decided she’d didn’t want rice that much.

Kitnyot is simply tradition. One reason sometimes given is that you want people to eat matzah on Passover,. If they could eat kitnyot items instead, they may simply decide not to bother with the matzah. They’ll eat matzah just at the seder, and that’s it.

At one time, potatoes were considered kitnyot until one Rabbi raised concerns that if people couldn’t eat potatoes, they’d end up having to make more matzah and if they do a sloppy jobt, they could end up eating real chametz.

Beans are something that you can’t make bread out of, and yet beans (even peas) are kitnyot. Until the 1950s, peanuts were eaten by most Ashkenazi Jews until someone realized they were legumes and if they’re legumes, you can’t eat them because legumes are kitnyot!

Vanilla is also not eaten on Passover. Their’s a question whether it was because it became kitnyot because people heard it’s called a vanilla bean or because it may have been something made with products that are chametz (like grain alcohol) and thus prohibited. Some people have a tradition not to eat garlic because garlic at one time was allegedly stored in beer to keep it fresh. However, garlic isn’t considered kitnyot even by those who don’t eat it.