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Legumes in Passover, and more

Or: why is it a Mitzvah (religious commandment) to eat Masabcha in Passover. Also: what did our ancestors knew about cannabis that we still don’t know?


“Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachyah says: make yourself a Rav (teacher), acquire for yourself a friend and judge every man favorably”
Pirkei Avot, chapter 1, Mishna 6

First of all: no, it’s not really a Mitzvah to eat Masabcha in Passover. That’s part of my own interpretation of Judaism. Plus you can eat it without pita bread – an awkward thing to do with hummus. That’s because I, like most Jews, don’t eat bread (or pita bread) in Passover. Only there are some people who also don’t eat legumes in Passover – which is really too much if you ask me.

I believe I’ve followed Rabbi Yehoshua’s last two advices, that is – I acquired for myself many friends, and I am really trying to judge every man favorably (although it can be very difficult at times). But no, I didn’t really make myself a Rav.

Like many others before me, I went for two: the local custom (“Minhag“), and my father’s customs. The local (Florentine, south Tel Aviv) custom is do whatever you like and try not to disturb others too much. In my father’s house, we ate legumes, because “that’s what they did in Safed”, where my father was born and brought up.

To cut a long story short, in Passover I don’t eat Hummus. I eat Masabcha without the Pita bread.

Tahini too

The ban on eating legumes in Passover belongs mainly to the Ashkenazi tradition, and does not exist in most Sephardic and eastern Jewish traditions. The origin is a custom, which was prevalent in Israel during the first and second centuries AD, maybe a little sooner.

The sages of Babylon (who, it seems, were more modest than some of  the heads of the current Jewish Diaspora) treated this custom with respect, although it was perfectly clear to them there is absolutely no connection between cereals and legumes, and that chickpeas don’t leaven like wheat does.

The legumes our sages were referring to were not only what we know today as legumes (chickpeas, beans and broad beans, lentils, peas etc), but also all the known grains, including rice, mustard seeds, kasha, corn, sesame seeds, cannabis seeds, linen, poppy seeds, soya beans and so on.

Our sages: legumes and cannabis lovers?

Our sages of blessed memory (“Hazal”) were wise, practical and creative. They would not make a decree the public will not be able to fulfill, such as avoid everything that contains soy beans or corn (around 90% of food product in the West today). I would like to believe they wouldn’t command hummus lovers avoid eating hummus in Passover, but that’s just me…

However, there is little doubt our Sages knew a lot about legumes, and must have also been familiar with cannabis. It is no secret that cannabis oil (or maybe cannabis seeds oil) was used to anoint the priests and the sanctified utensils in the Temple.

The list of forbidden “legumes” (the Hebrew word is “Kitniyot”) tells us that our ancestors used cannabis and its products as food, and/or for other uses, such as cosmetics or smoking (what is known as “pleasure” in the Jewish Law – Halacha). If not, why are they present in the leavened food (“Hametz“) list?

In light of all this, it’s not surprising that the tradition around the Seder night came to include drinking four glasses of wine – the necessary amount to achieve a nice buzz and a good mood before singing. And there you have the first historical example of the Gateway Theory in action.

Masabcha in Passover: a Mizvah

Bottom line, I believe that eating Masabcha in Passover is a Mizvah.  The Israeli Passover diet includes mainly Matza bread and cookies made of peanuts or coconut, that is, astronomical amounts of fat and carbohydrates. If eating Masabcha can reduce the health damage, even by a little bit, it can be considered Pikuach nefesh (life saving).

So, to save lives and safeguarding souls, I recommend adoption of the Sephardic custom. I prepare Masabcha at home. Happy Passover to you all.

3 Comments on Legumes in Passover, and more

  1. Alter Kocker // February 21, 2012 at 2:18 am // Reply

    Considering this blog, I would say that you most certain have made yourself a rev. A humus rev is still a rev, I say.

  2. We don’t even have peas at home because my sister’s doctor prescribed her that she is forbidden to any leguminous foods due to her health status. I wasn’t cleared about that because all I think about legumes was nutritious and I can’t sense any bad ailment on it. Plzz do follow up comments on y doubts.

  3. Chaia landau // April 24, 2016 at 8:58 pm // Reply

    I ate hummus with matzoh yesterday not knowing it was on the list of no no’s . I am a basic vegetarian and eat little as it is..well now I’m really limited. Beans and rice are out, now hummus is out. What are we who don’t partake of animal foods to do on Passover? One cannot live on lettuce alone. So depressing.

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