OU Won't Certify Quinoa For Passover Because Haredi Rabbi Says It's Used Like Wheat And Therefore Isn't Kosher
“We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused,” Genack said. “It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the O.U. for kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”
The JTA reports:
…“We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused,” Genack said. “It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the O.U. for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”
The O.U.'s non-endorsement is the result of a debate within the organization's own ranks.
Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the head of Brooklyn's Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and a consulting rabbi for the O.U., maintains that quinoa qualifies as kitniyot because it's used in a manner similar to forbidden grains. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the heads of Yeshiva University's rabbinical school and also an O.U. consultant, agrees with Rosen that the category of kitniyot should not be expanded.
Rosen said the Star-K certifies only the quinoa that has no other grains growing nearby. This year, for the first time, the company sent supervisors to South America to supervise the harvesting, sifting and packaging of the product.
“Whenever there’s a new age food, there’s always a fight between kosher factions,” Rosen said. “But we should be worrying about other things, like all the cookies, pizzas and noodles that are Passover certified but appear to be chametz. Quinoa is the least of our problems.”…
Rosen also correctly notes that quinoa is a seed, not a legume, and therefore it can't be kitniyot.
Belsky appears to be extending a halakhic principle to find a way to forbid quinoa.
Something permitted that shares a name with something forbidden can be ruled forbidden for that reason alone. In fact, that is how corn was banned for Passover use by Ashkenazi rabbis.
The actual name of corn is maize. But because it was the staple crop of the indigenous peoples Europeans encountered when settling the Americas, the Europeans called it "corn" – which was then the word associated with staple crop in several European languages. The problem, of course, is that the staple crop in Europe was usually wheat.
In order to stop any potential confusion, and because when two different items share a name halakha considers them to also share some common traits, corn was banned.
Belsky is doing something like that here, arguing that quinoa is used like wheat (think of a wheat pilaf, for example) and like rice (which is also not a grain and not hametz, but which is still forbidden on Passover by Ashkenazi and some Sefardi rabbis) and is therefore forbidden.
Belsky's case is weak – something not at all unusual for him. But because he's a rosh yeshiva, and because the OU needs a token haredi posek to make the OU somewhat palatable to haredim, the OU will follow him – even though a grade school student could probably prove Belsky wrong in less time than it takes Belsky to consume his shiur of matzoh on the first night of Passover.
A man came to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein excited because he had worked out a way to rule that rhubarb was kitniyot and therefore forbidden for Ashkenazim to eat on Passover. The man expected Rav Moshe would be impressed with his skill with manipulating halakha, and he hoped Rav Moshe, confronted with this new 'truth,' would ban the plant's consumption on Passover.
Rav Moshe responded tersely: "Wasn't corn enough for you?," he said.
The point is to try to make life easier for Jews, not harder. The only people who benefit from these new humrot and bans are the agitators who instigate them. Everyone else, at least in potential, suffers.
Corn was more than enough for Rav Moshe, but it wasn't enough for Yisroel Belsky.
And that speaks volumes for the greatness of Rav Moshe, and it does the opposite for Yisroel Belsky.
[Hat Tip: Rebbitzman.]