Don’t burn your hametz, donate it to needy, says Beit Hillel rabbis

Jewish law stipulates leavened products shouldn't not be consumed, present in the home, during Passover; a traditional practice is to burn hametz goods.

April 6, 2014 22:16
2 minute read.
Haredim burn leaven in Mea Shearim

Haredim buning hametz 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)


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Beit Hillel, a national-religious rabbinical association, has recommended that people donate unwanted hametz (leavened) products – which according to Jewish law may not be eaten over Passover – instead of burning them as is traditional.

Because Jewish law stipulates that leavened products should not be consumed, or even present in one’s residence, during the Passover holiday, a traditional practice is to burn unwanted hametz goods before the seven-day (eight outside of Israel) festival commences.

But Beit Hillel has said that such products, if they are still packaged, should be collected by communities and then be symbolically sold for the duration of Passover and donated to charities and the poor afterward.

Any hametz products that would not keep until after the holiday, such as bread, should be donated to those in need in non-Jewish communities in Israel.

The organization also suggested that people should minimize the hametz that they burn and not burn packaging that would add to air pollution.

In another suggestion for Passover, Beit Hillel has also issued a responsum that it hopes will encourage Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews to eat together over the festival, despite different traditions regarding what may or may not be eaten.

Traditional Orthodox Ashkenazi custom has been to avoid legumes, and several other food stuffs, out of concern that the products made from them could resemble hametz, or that raw grains from which leavened food is made could be accidentally mixed in with kitniyot produce and then consumed over Passover.

Sephardi communities do not, however, follow this custom and eat all forms of kitniyot, something that often deters Ashkenazi Jews from eating at their homes.

In the responsum, Beit Hillel said the Ashkenazi custom should not be belittled and should be preserved, but said that it was right to try and make it easier for the two communities to join together over Passover to create greater unity among the Jewish people.

Beit Hillel said it is permitted for Ashkenazim to eat from utensils and crockery that have been used to cook or serve food with kitniyot.

Similarly, the group’s ruling stated that it is also permitted for Ashkenazim to eat food that was cooked with kitniyot, such as a chicken and rice dish, as long as the kitniyot were separated from the other food.

Additionally, Beit Hillel said that foods cooked with cottonseed or canola oil is permitted to Ashkenazim, and that if a family or individual has no tradition of not eating quinoa or peanuts, then they, too, may be consumed.

The association of rabbis said that leniencies for eating soya products may also be relied on, especially for vegetarians.

“Our position paper on these laws continues our encouragement for and increase of unity and love within the Jewish people,” said the organization’s director, Rabbi Ronen Neurwirth.

“The rabbis and female experts on Jewish law of Beit Hillel encourage the Jewish people to eat at one another’s homes during Passover... and this position paper is designed to allow Ashkenazi families to be hosted at the homes of Sephardi families without worrying about the issue of kitniyot."

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