[Disclaimer: everything I write is not להלכה and not למעשה. In this case, my knowledge of food science is also, at best, cursory. Do discuss this issue with your Rabbi and don’t be influenced in practice by my pitputim]
In Halacha, legumes which have been traditionally not used over Pesach for a number of well-known reasons, are forbidden. This is the Ashkenazi prohibition of Kitniyos. Some, like Rabbi David Bar Chaim (who I remember as David Mandel when he was in Melbourne many moons ago, and who went to study at BMT/Hakotel at around the same time that I went to KBY 🙂 asserts that it’s not a blanket Ashkenazi prohibition, but rather one that is an Ashkenazi prohibition outside of Israel. His view is that Minhag Eretz Yisrael was never to adopt the minhag not to eat Kitniyos. I would assume, that Rabbi Bar Chaim, should he find himself in Chutz La’aretz over Pesach, would adopt the Minhag of Ashkenazim in Chutz La’aretz and not partake of Kitniyos. My assumption may not be true, of course, as he would appear to have a renaissance-style agenda for reinstating what he sees as Minhag Eretz Yisrael, even prior to Mashiach coming, rejecting any imported Minhagim from those who have made Aliya over the last 3-400 years.
What is the הלכה if Kitniyos is an admixture of a food stuff? Do we assume that it is Batel B’Rov, nullified by the majority of the ingredients which are fine, and bought before Pesach? This is a disagreement amongst the Poskim, however, where there is any semblance of a medical need, given that the issue of mixtures isn’t black and white, Poskim are certainly lenient across the board.
What about the derivatives of Kitniyos? This is known as מי קטניות? Famously, Rav Kook ז’ל declared that they were completely acceptable, because Ashkenazim never had a Minhag not to consume this, and the process negated all the issues that Kitniyos came to protect in the first place. Rav Kook’s permissive ruling is halachically sound, however, Charedim rejected it and as such it has become a default “not to rely on this Hetter”. Having said that, I well recall that even in Melbourne, as the outsiders “infiltrated” our midst, certain Kitniyos or questionably Kitniyos derived oils (מי קטניות) were definitely used by almost everyone. Peanut oil is a good example. It is highly unlikely (as per R’ Moshe ז’ל) that peanuts were ever included in the ban on Kitniyos. If we couple that doubt together with the fact that we aren’t dealing with peanuts per se, but rather a product derived from peanuts, and prepared before Pesach with a Hechsher, it can cogently be argued that there should be absolutely no problem. However, we have a long-standing custom to choose something with zero doubt over Pesach: that is, we are Machmir. Being Machmir (stringent) seems to be a long-standing Minhag. In a similar way, during Aseres Yemei T’Shuva we have a custom to be Machmir on Pas Palter and perhaps Chalav Stam even though we aren’t Machmir a whole year around.
Enter the Diet Drink. Our society loves their Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Prigat etc. When you pick up a bottle of these at your local Kosher greengrocer, you will see that the Coke has at least one “Charedi” Hashgacha, such as from the Chug Chasam Sofer, or Rav Lande from B’nei Brak. Yet, the diet version has a Hashgacha from the Rabanut. What gives? Artificial sweeteners are often derived from Kitniyos. They are another level away from מי קטניות. Why? Because they have been chemically altered/processed. This is known as קטניות שנשתנו, Kitniyos that have undergone a process (chemical) change/development. Again, the Poskim are divided on this issue. Unlike Kitniyos derived oils, however, on this issue even Charedi Poskim stand on either side of the debate. One cannot just dismiss it because it emanated from the “Zionist” Rav Kook (did you know, by the way, that Rav Kook refused to join a religious zionist political party). On this issue, we have very respected Kashrus authorities who permit it: such as Rav Belski (senior Posek of the OU and a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva) and Rav Gedalya Dov Schwartz of cRc—not to be confused with the anti-zionist CRC—(who I was fortunate to meet and speak with when he came for a wedding I played at in Melbourne) and others. Rav Schwartz is well-balanced and respected by all. The model of co-operation in Chicago is an icon for the rest of the world.
With this in mind, I’d like to quibble with the wording that was sent out by our own Kosher Australia recently. Yankel Wajsbort, who does a fantastic job, and is partly responsible for bringing our lists to the modern world of communication wrote:
A reminder that all the Diet drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Prigat) available in Australia use kitniyos sweeteners (a check of the label will show that the regular Kosher certification does not cover Pesach).
I have three problems with this statement, especially in the context of the later comments about Hommous and Techina products being Kitniyos for Ashkenazim.
- This is not, in the main, Kitniyos. Rather it is Kitniyos that has undergone a process change, as above.
- It is not true that the label will show that the “regular” certification doesn’t cover Pesach. There is a different certifying body that approves of Diet drinks, as above. At least, that is true for Prigat. I haven’t looked at Coke.
- Kosher Australia has three ways of issuing a pronouncement on the issue of Kitniyos that has undergone change: It either takes its own stand on the issue, which I assume would be accompanied by a formal Tshuva, or it decides to follow one group of opinions on the matter (the strict one) given that it is a body that needs to certify for a range of groups across Melbourne, or it lists the two sides of the coin and suggests that people check with their local orthodox Rabbi (LOR).
My preference, similar to what I wrote about Quinoa, is that Kosher Australia briefly list the major Kashrus organisations on both sides of this halachic divide, and then suggest that one should consult with their LOR. The approach taken in the communication above is just too black and white for my tastes (sic).
Kosher Australia acknowledged that the wording could have been better, and their consistent policy is to follow R’ Lande on these matters. They prefer, apparently, not to get into the intricacies, as above, as this may confuse. Fair enough.
Disclaimer: I don’t use Diet drinks on Pesach, only because I’m somewhat of a Machmir over Pesach, and if I ever want to be lenient, my wife steps in and puts a halt to it 🙂
PS. I discovered that Georgio Armani products seems also not to have Chametzdik alcohol in their liquid perfumes/after shaves. I saw this on one of the major hechsher websites. Anyone checked on it? Seems that the American one is fine. Not sure if Armani produce it anywhere else and/or differently.
PPS. Does anyone know why Chabadniks who avoid all processed food on Pesach, seem to rely on Hechsherim for wine these days (but not, for example, Vodka)