With regard to the Festival of Passover, The Torah mentions five types of grain that can become leavened, or chametz, if they remain in water for more than 18 minutes: wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. These grains are banned on Passover, except as matzah.
So what is this category of kitniyot that Ashkenazi Jews have banned since the 13th century, but the American Conservative Movement made acceptable for this year? Kitniyot are rice, millet, beans, lentils, millet and corn. They were banned because people might get confused because hametz (leavened products) and kitniyot are boiled similarly, and in some places they make kinds of “bread” out of kitniyot.
This year, the Conservative movement made the monumental decision to allow Conservative Jews to eat kitniyot. For some, this was a welcome option; for others it became a difficult choice.
I always choose to go back to the roots of why when examining ritual and searching for meaning. Why do we eat differently on Passover than any other time of the year? Philo, a Greek-Jewish philosopher, described chametz as “pride,” because leavened bread is “puffed-up.” Removing chametz on Passover from our homes, our lives, our families, is a struggle between who we really are now and who we can be once we strip away all the trappings of self-importance.
On Passover, we are supposed to think about every bite of food, before we eat it. We are supposed to remember our story from slavery to freedom, and we are supposed to ask many questions about the modern day iniquities and struggles.
I can't tell you what to do - I can only encourage you to examine the "why's" of Passover, and make sure you are pushing yourself a little bit deeper than last year.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
Rabbi Bravo and the Makom NY Team