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Eat or not eat rice in Pessach

It could be called the “Pesach controversy”, which separates the Ashkenazims from the Sephardims, and which provokes the zizanie in the “mixed” families who celebrate together the Seder. In the strict sense, “kitniyots” are seeds of the legume family. They include rice, beans, corn, millet, soybeans, peas and sarrazin.
The Sephardim
A custom that makes a lot of jealous : The Tunes have the ancestral right to eat rice during Pesach and do not deprive themselves of it elsewhere.
The origin of this custom is not very clear but several reports mention a very harsh famine that reigned in Tunisia and wreaked havoc among the population.
One day, on the eve of Pesach, which was going to be very hard, an enormous caravan loaded with rice made its entrance to Tunis. The rabbinical authorities hastened to declare the arrival of this rice simply miraculous and authorized its consumption. And as any custom or minagh, which is established makes law, the Tunisians overflow with creativity concerning dishes accompanied by rice.
On the other hand, Moroccans and some Algerians do not traditionally consume rice in Pesach.
According to the Talmud
According to the Talmud some wise men put their rice table on the evening of the seder. There is a minority opinion in the Talmud stating that rice can be considered Hametz, but Halacha has decided differently. In the Shulhan Aruh, it is clearly written that it is permissible to consume rice in Pesach.
In Israel, most Sephardic communities consume rice in Pesach.
Only the Halacha is binding on all Jews.
Until the conquest of Babylon by the Muslims in the middle of the 7th century, there was only one central authority in Halacha. The different communities then developed different responses and customs.
The Ashkenazi
“The Ashkenazim prohibition covers seeds and most vegetables from which flour can be made, with the exception of potatoes,” Rabbi Moshe Dombey, who teaches Halacha at the Neveh Yerushalaim Women’s Seminary .
The Halacha forbade the Jews to consume Hametz during Pesach. Still according to Halacha, Hametz can come from 5 seeds : wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelled.
Kitniyots are not hametz. Maimonides writes that “there is no Hametz in kitnyiots”, and therefore “even if the rice was reduced to flour likely to swell like a dough, one can consume it because it is not Hametz” .
“The ban on consuming kitniyots is an Ashkenazi minhag,” says Rabbi Dombey. A minhag is a custom. Different customs have developed in different communities and are binding only for these communities.
According to Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in his book “Moadim Behalacha”, the first occurrence in halachic literature of the prohibition of kitniyots during Pesach appears in a 13th century book, “Sefer Mitsvot Katan”, from Ashkenazi Rabbi Yitzhak Ben -Yosef of Corbeil. Rabbi Yitzhak refers to this prohibition not as a recent custom, but as a usage established by “the wise men of an earlier age” thus indicating that this prohibition was already well established in his day.
The exact origin of this prohibition for Ashkenazims to consume kitniyots during Pesach is obscure and there are at least 11 different explanations. The most commonly accepted connection links this use to the early development of “modern” agriculture that is located in France and Germany in the 13th century. Various explanations on the prohibition of eating rice among the Ashkenazim
In these two countries, where the summer rains are abundant and the winters not too rigorous, it is possible to make two harvests, one summer and one winter. This is not the case in the Mediterranean regions where summer rains are non-existent. Consequently, in France and Germany, the crop cycle has shifted from a two-year crop rotation to a three-year rotation. : The first year, a winter harvest, the second year, a summer harvest, and the third year, a fallow. At about the same time, legumes (the family to which these famous “seeds” belong) began to play an important role in this rotation system over 3 years. Their high nitrogen content allowed them to serve as natural fertilizer to fertilize fields depleted in nitrogen by growing cereals. After the harvest, corn remained on the surface of the fields. Some could take root. If one year was planted with wheat and the next year beans, it was possible that wheat ears would be harvested together with the beans and mixed with them.
Sources : Lamed & Harissa

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