Wednesday, April 12, 2006


While I expressed gratitude that I do eat gebrochts on Pesach, I regret that I can't say the same about kitniyot (or kitniot) - קטניות. Jastrow defines kitniyot as "small fruit, pulse, beans, peas", and states that the term derives from the word katan קטן - small. This term appears in Talmudic literature far before the medieval prohibition of eating it on Pesach.

As often happens, an etymology can often help to better understand the nature of a term. Richard Israel did so in this essay in regards to kitniyot:

In general, kitniot are those small (kitniot - from katan) seeds or beans which look a little like grains and which need to be cooked to be eaten. Though frequently translated as legumes, aside from peas and peanuts, they are NOT legumes. And some legumes, like alfalfa leaves which can be used for salad, ARE NOT kitniot. Legumes are plants whose root nodules make nitrogen. Since "teensy-weensies" or "tinies" are not translations that are very likely to make it into ordinary English parlance, the most appropriate translation for kitniot, it seems to me, is kitniot.

Now obviously an understanding of kitniyot as being small enough to look like grain has an impact on what could or should be considered to be included in the prohibition. But that's beyond the scope of Balashon...

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