Rice and Beans OK for Passover for First Time Since 1200s

A 13th century rule has been reversed
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2016 8:41 AM CDT
Rice and Beans OK for Passover for First Time Since 1200s
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski starts the community Seder for Chabad South Tampa.   (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, James Borchuck)

Foods like rice and beans may be on the Passover tables of some Jews for the first time in 800 years thanks to a ruling by a committee of rabbis in the Conservative movement, Smithsonian reports. Those foods, along with corn, beans, and peanuts, which belong to a category called kitniyot, were previously banned for Ashkenazi Jews living outside of Israel during Passover, which began Friday. The reason for the prohibition? Those foods are sometimes mixed with wheat, the eating of which is permissible during the 8-day festival only in the form of matzah. To avoid any accidental consumption of wheat, kitniyot was banned altogether in the 13th century. Other groups, such as the Sephardi Jews, have always eaten these foods on Passover, the Times of Israel reports.

Now, a new world of Passover cuisine has been opened up to Ashkenazi Jews—the largest Jewish group in the US, Reuters reports. Traditional Passover dishes include beef brisket, gefilte fish, and matzo ball soup. Both budgetary and health reasons prompted the change, which was approved by 19 rabbis, with one opposing and two abstaining, per the Times. “Passover foods are high in fat and cholesterol,” one US rabbi says, adding that meat is expensive and, depending on how it is raised, "environmentally questionable." "For vegans," another rabbi tells Reuters, "it was really a matter of not having protein for eight days." Still, not all Jews are welcoming the change. “We won’t be doing anything different this year,” Lynne Sandler of Virginia tells the Times. “We’ve lived our lives without it.” (Here are some "sensitive" study results on another Jewish tradition: circumcision.)

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