Sharona Margolin Halickman

Can a soldier in enemy territory eat kitniot?

Photo Courtesy Yehuda Halickman

Traditionally, Ashkenazi Jews have the custom not to eat kitniot (legumes) on Pesach. There may be less of a selection in the stores in Israel of foods that do not contain kitniot but there is still plenty to buy. The army bases in Israel serve only food that does not contain kitniot on Pesach and the soldiers have enough to eat.

Unfortunately, this year Israel is at war on a few fronts. Many soldiers will not be able to be home or at their regular bases for Pesach and will be out in the battlefield in enemy territory.

In areas where the army will be able to distribute hot food to the soldiers, they will give out food that is kosher for Pesach without kitniot.

In areas where hot food can’t be delivered, the soldiers will receive matzah as well as everything that is needed for the seder. Aside from that, they will be given army rations without kitniot such as tuna in water, potato crackers, jelly, Pesach cakes and cookies and nuts. They will also receive army rations that include kitniot such as canned corn, beans, chickpeas, halva etc.

The Army Rabbinate explains that Ashkenasic authorities throughout history (including Chatam Sofer and the Mishna Brura) have allowed the use of kitniot during a time of great necessity (sh’at ha’dchak) when there was a food shortage. They also allowed a sick person to eat kitniot, even if they were not sick enough for their life to be in danger (choleh she’ein bo sakana).

The Chief Rabbi of Tzahal declared that a prolonged war on enemy territory would be considered a sh’at ha’dchak if there is not enough satisfying food and therefore even Ashkenasim would be allowed to eat kitniot. This would be a specific heter (dispensation) due to the war and one would not need to do “Hatarat Nedarim” (annul their vows). Those who want to be strict and not eat kitniot can certainly be lenient with products that contain kitniot oils such as canola oil which may be found in tuna fish or chocolate spread.

One must remember that kitniot are not Chametz and may be owned by those who don’t eat them. There is no dispensation for eating Chametz even while we are at war.

May this war end before the holiday and then this information will no longer be needed.

Pesach Kasher v’Sameach!

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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