This week we will focus on the scope of the Ashkenazic practice of abstaining from eating Kitniyot on Pesach. We will focus on the issue of whether or not an Ashkenazic Jew may eat non-Kitniyot products at a Sephardic Jew's home on Pesach.
Rav Ovadia Yosef's Responsum
Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Daat 5:32) rules that an Ashkenazi may eat non-Kitniyot food at a Sephardic Jew's home on Pesach. He rules that special utensils that have not been used for Kitniyot are not required for the Ashkenazi guest. This ruling is based on the following ruling of the Rema (Orach Chaim 453:2): "It is obvious that if Kitniyot fell into food during Pesach, they don't render the food forbidden B'dieved (post facto)."
It appears from the Rema that there need not be a 60:1 (")&- "::*.) ratio of non-Kitniyot to Kitniyot in order to nullify any Kitniyot which may have fell into a pot of food. Rather, as long as there is more non-problematic food than there are Kitniyot, the Minhag of Kitniyot doesn't apply. The classic commentators on the Shulchan Aruch along with the later codifiers seem to accept this view. These authorities include the Elya Rabbah (453:4), Shulchan Aruch Harav (453:5), Chok Yaakov (453:5), Chayei Adam (127:1), and the Mishna Berura (453:9).
The Chok Yaakov explains that although it appears from the Terumat Hadeshen (an important late Ashkenazic authority who is often quoted by the Rema) that a 60:1 ratio is necessary to nullify (/")-) the Kitniyot, the Halacha follows the Rema, who states that only a majority of the food must not be Kitniyot. The reason for this Halacha is Ashkenazim refrain from Kitniyot only because of Minhag, and not a rabbinic ruling.
Accordingly, Rav Yosef argues the following:
"It is clear that the food particles of Kitniyot absorbed in pots in Sephardic homes that are released (15-)) into non-Kitniyot food do not render the food forbidden to be consumed by Ashkenazim. Even if the utensils have been used within the past twenty four hours ("1* *&/0, and thus emitting a "good taste") it is still permissible for Ashkenazim to eat from them because there is surely more permissible food than Kitniyot emerging from the walls of the pot (5-*)&;).
Precedents for Rav Yosef's Ruling
Rav Yosef cites three interesting precedents for his ruling. The first is a responsum of the Rema (number 132) regarding those who are strict regarding the issue of Chadash (the prohibition on eating grain sown after Pesach, before the following year's sixteenth of Nissan). Just as most observant Jews today are lenient regarding this issue, Rav Soloveitchik commented in a Shiur he delivered at Yeshiva University, that most people in Europe were lenient as well. The Rema writes that those who adopt the strict position regarding Chadash may eat from the utensils of those who are lenient in this matter. A reason for this leniency is that Chadash is at most a Safek (doubtful prohibition) to even those who are strict. Accordingly, there exists a double doubt (S'fek S'feika), regarding utensils because it is always doubtful if the taste emerging from the utensils imparts a good or bad taste to the food absorbing the taste (see Tosafot Avoda Zara 38b s.v. !*, Rosh Avoda Zara 2:35, Teshuvot Harashaba no. 497, and Sefer Issur V'heter 33:10 - Rishonim who all assert that it is always a Safek whether the )3. emerging from a pot is -:"(, a good taste).
A second precedent is a ruling by the Teshuvot Haradvaz (4:496). This responsum concerns whether those who did not rely on a particular Shochet could eat food cooked with utensils of those who did rely on that Shochet. The Radvaz rules leniently again because one may eat food cooked in utensils that absorbed 258 !*2&9, something regarding which it is doubtful whether or not it is forbidden.
A third precedent is an important ruling of the Rema that appears in a gloss to the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 64:9). The comment regards a type of fat regarding which there were several different customs among the Ashkenazic as far as its permissibility was concerned. The Rema comments that the communities which abided by the strict view were allowed to eat from food cooked in utensils of people in the communities who followed the lenient ruling. The reason presented by the Rema is that they were following a legitimate ruling of their Halachic authorities. Again the same reasoning seems to be operating. For those who followed the strict ruling, the fat was merely a Safek Isur, and thus the food cooked in the utensils was permitted because of a S'fek S'feika.
Rav Yosef's analogy to an Ashkenazi eating at a Sephardic Jew's home on Pesach is as follows: The Ashkenazic practice to refrain from Kitniyot is only a Minhag, and in case of Safek one may be lenient. Thus, since it is only a Safek if the taste emitted by the pots is -:"(, one may be lenient. A serious flaw with this analogy is that Ashkenazim follow the ruling of the Rema (O.C. 447:10) that even 1&;0 )3. -5#. is forbidden on Pesach (for an explanation of this ruling, see the introduction of the Pri Megadim to Yoreh Deah chapter 103). However, Rav Yosef's reasoning that the Kitniyot "taste particles" emerging from the utensils are ")- by the food cooked in the pot appears to be sound.
In fact, he cites Teshuvot Zera Emet (3: O.C. 48) who rules leniently in this regard. This responsum presents as a precedent the Gemara (Bechorot 27a) which states that Challah separated outside of Eretz Yisrael is nullified by a 9&" (majority of forbidden food). Another precedent is the Gemara (Chullin 7a) which states that the rabbis permitted $/!* (grain regarding which there is a small chance that it might not have been tithed properly) if it is mixed with a majority of other food (;39&"; $/!*). The reasoning is that since the requirement to tithe $/!* is a mere (&/9! (stringency) and the rabbis did not apply this (&/9! to when the $/!* does not constitute a majority of the food. Similarly, we may consider the Minhag of Kitniyot to not apply when the Kitniyot do not constitute a majority of the food.
Criticism of Rav Yosef's Responsum - Rav Neuwirth
There appears to be, however, a serious flaw in the reasoning of Rav Yosef's responsum. The problem is that the accepted practice dating back to Europe is for Ashkenazim to be concerned with the "taste particles" of Kitniyot emerging from utensils. A great deal of anecdotal evidence exists pointing to the practice among Ashkenazic Jews in Europe to avoid eating at other people's homes during Pesach. The concern was that since different people had different practices and customs regarding Pesach, than the guests may not have been permitted to eat from the food cooked in the utensils of their co-religionists.
Thus, it appears that Ashkenazic custom may have accepted what the aforementioned Terumat Hadeshen requires - sixty times the volume of the Kitniyot to nullify them. Accordingly, it is not surprising to find that Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shmirat Shabbat K'hilchata 40:80) rules that in case one must cook Kitniyot for a sick individual, it is proper to use separate utensils for that purpose. He cites Teshuvot Maharam Shick (a great nineteenth century Hungarian decisor, O.C. 24) as a source for this ruling. Moreover, in Yechave Daat 1:9, Rav Yosef writes that if an Ashkenazi needs to make Kitniyot for a very young child, he should use separate utensils for this purpose.
Despite the cogency of Rav Yosef's responsum, it appears to run counter to the accepted Ashkenazic practice. Thus, it appears that one perhaps can rely on his ruling only in case of urgent need. One should consult his Halachic advisor should such a situation arise.