Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 1 April 2017 / 5 Nisan 5777

The Halachic Adventures of the Potato

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

With the countdown to Pesach beginning, many are starting to already stockpile their potatoes in anticipation of Yom Tov. What would Pesach be without potatoes? Although nowadays we all take the potato for granted, it actually has a fascinating history: one which not only has impacted halachah, but, due to its travels, enshrined its ‘discoverer’, Sir Francis Drake, as one of the Chasidei Umos HaOlam (righteous gentiles of the world)![1] This article sets out to ‘explore’ the halachic impact the potato has made in several different areas.

Ever since first ‘making the scene’ via the victorious Spaniards shipping them from the conquered Incas to their own colonies and armies throughout Europe in the late 1500s, the ubiquitous potato has been a considerable mainstay on the world stage. From circumnavigating the globe with Sir Francis Drake, to famed French physician Antoine Parmentier waxing poetic about this nightshade’s nutritional value, to Queen Marie Antoinette wearing a headdress of potato flowers at a fancy ball (obviously while she still had her head), by the 1770s the potato had become a staple crop throughout Europe. What other vegetable has been credited with helping facilitate such diverse events as the Industrial Revolution, the Great Irish Famine of 1845 (due to their susceptibility to blight), Russia’s proclivity for vodka, a U.S. Vice President’s public spelling debacle, and a themed toy version of itself so popular that it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame? Yet, aside for the tuber’s worldly presence, it also holds a unique place in the annals of Halachah, and not just by its significance in latkes, cholent, Pesach cooking, and fresh hot potato kugel.

Brachah Brouhaha - Mind Your K’s And T’s

If one were to take a poll as to the potato’s proper brachah (blessing required before eating) the vast majority would respond that since the potato is a vegetable and grows and gets its nourishment from the ground, its proper brachah is “borei pri ha’adama”.[2] Yet, although this seems clear-cut, interestingly, there are those who make a different blessing: shehakol, usually reserved for food items not naturally grown.

The source of this remarkable ruling seems to be an enigmatic translation by the Aruch, Rav Nosson M’Romi (lit. of Rome; d. 1106), a contemporary of Rashi.[3] When referring to the proper brachah of mushrooms and other food items that do not actually get their nourishment from the earth and consequentially their bracha being shehakol,[4] the Aruch translates them as “Tartuffel”. Not familiar with the archaic word, the famed Yismach Moshe[5] maintained that the Aruch must have been referring to “Kartuffel”, colloquially known as the potato. He added that the great Rav Naftali of Ropshitz made a shehakol on potatoes as well.

This rationale is also found in several other sefarim, and there are prominent authorities who therefore made a shehakol brachah on potatoes.[6] In fact, Sanz and Kamarna Chassidim, among others, follow this custom.

The Klausenberger Rebbe, the Tzhelemer Rav, and Rav Shraga Feivel Schneebalg[7] staunchly defend the practice of making a shehakol on potatoes. The Klausenberger Rebbe adds another reason to do so: Since one can make flour out of potatoes and potatoes satiate and are filling, it might be considered in the same category of rice, whose proper brachah is mezonos.[8] The rule is that if one is unsure what the proper brachah is he should make a shehakol. He therefore opines that potatoes should also be shehakol.

On the other hand, it must be noted that the Steipler Gaon[9] strongly disagreed with this reasoning, maintaining that the Gemara (Brachos 36b - 37a) expressly singled out rice for this special halachah of mezonos, and that it therefore does not apply to other foods.

The Kamarna Rebbe of Yerushalayim’s son personally told this author a similar reasoning as the Klausenberger Rebbe’s why Kamarna Chassidim make a shehakol.[10] He added that anyway if one makes a shehakol on any food he is yotzei b’dieved, so kol shekein one may do so with a potato when many great Rabbanim have said to do so.

However, the facts do not seem to corroborate that potatoes should be in the same category as mushrooms, as potatoes not only grow and root in the ground, but they also get their nourishment from the ground, as opposed to mushrooms and their ilk. Several contemporary authorities point out[11] that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Aruch, who lived in Europe in the 11th century, to have been referring to “Kartuffel” as the proper translation for mushrooms, as tubers were unknown on that continent until almost five hundred years later! Therefore, the vast majority of authorities rule that the proper blessing on the potato is indeed “borei pri ha’adama”.[12]

Kitniyos Clash

Another interesting issue related to the potato is its exclusion from the Ashkenazic prohibition of eating kitniyos (legumes; ostensibly based on its semi-literal translation: ‘little things’) on Pesach. It is well known that the actual prohibition of chametz on Pesach pertains exclusively to leavened products produced from the five major grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye.[13] Yet, already in place from the times of the Rishonim,[14] there was an Ashkenazic[15] prohibition against eating kitniyos (legumes; literally ‘little things’) on Pesach, except in times of famine or grave need.[16] Although several authorities opposed this prohibition[17]; nonetheless it is binding on Ashkenazic Jewry in full force, even today.[18]

Although referred to slightly differently by our great luminaries, i.e. the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch references it as an ‘issur’, the Mishnah Berurah as a ‘chumrah’, the Aruch Hashulchan as a ‘geder’, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l as a ‘gezeirah’, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l as a ‘minhag’, and the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l as a ‘takanah’, nonetheless, they all maintain that thekitniyos prohibition is compulsory on all Ashkenazic Jewry.[19] In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan avers that ‘once our forefathers have accepted this prohibition upon themselves, it is considered a ‘geder m’din Torah’ and one who is lenient is testifying about himself that he has no fear of Heaven”. He adds, echoing Shlomo Hamelech’s wise words (Koheles Ch. 10: 8) regarding a ‘poretz geder’, that one who breaks this prohibition deserves to be bitten by a snake.

Several reasons are given for the actual prohibition[20] including that kitniyos often grow in close proximity to grain; are commonly stored together with grain and actual chametz might actually end up mixed inside the kitniyos container; cooked dishes made from grain and kitniyos look similar; and that kitniyos can likewise be ground up into flour - a ‘bread’ of sorts can actually be made from them. Since there are many who will not be able to differentiate between them and their biblically forbidden chametz counterparts, kitniyos was likewise prohibited.

A Hot Potato?

So how do our spuds measure up? It would seemingly be quite difficult for anyone to mix up potatoes with chametz grain, so that rationale to regard potatoes as kitniyos is out. But, potatoes can be and are made into potato flour and potato starch, and there are those who do bake potato ‘bread’! If so, why would potatoes not be considered kitniyos? Shouldn’t they be consequentially forbidden for Ashkenazim to partake of on Pesach?

In fact, and this is not widely known, the Chayei Adam does actually rule this way, and the Pri Megadim mentions that he knows of such a custom, to prohibit potatoes on Pesach as a type of kitniyos.[21] However, the vast majority of authorities rule that potatoes are not any form of kitniyos and are permissible to all on Pesach.[22]

One of the main reasons for this is that at the time when the Ashkenazic Rishonim established the decree prohibiting kitniyos, potatoes were completely unknown! It is possible that had they been readily available they might have found themselves on the “forbidden list” as well! Yet, since they were never included, as well as do not fit most of the kitniyos criteria, contemporary authorities could not add “new types” to the list.[23]

However, it must be noted that there are other important reasons as well why potatoes were excluded. Of the four criteria given for the gezeira of Kitniyos, potatoes only fit one, that it can be made into flour and a ‘bread’ of sorts can be baked from it. No one would mix up a potato with a grain kernel![24]

As Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l noted,[25] Klal Yisrael never accepted the Kitniyos prohibition to include potatoes.

Cooking Quarrel

The potato was viewed quite differently by many, respective of the time and place. For example, as noted previously, it was prized by French nobility in the 1770s. Yet, by the mid 1800s tubers were considered peasant fare in many locales, including Ireland and Russia. This divergence of attitude actually has a halachic impact.

If a non-Jew cooks kosher food (from start to finish), it still might be prohibited for a Jew to consume it, based on the prohibition of Bishul Akum, literally - food cooked by a non-Jew. This is a Rabbinic decree, intended as a safeguard to combat the plague of assimilation and intermarriage. However, in order for food to be included in this prohibition, it must meet two requirements: be unable to be eaten raw, and it must be ‘Oleh Al Shulchan Melachim’ - fit for a King’s table. Any kosher food cooked by a non-Jew that does not meet these requirements (obviously with no other kashrus concerns) is permitted to be eaten.[26]

A common concern is figuring out which foods are considered ‘Fit for a King’s Table’. The Chayei Adam, Rav Avraham Danzig, who lived in Vilna (located in modern-day Lithuania) in the early 1800s, ruled that potatoes are considered an important food item, fit for nobility.[27] As such, they are ‘Fit for a King’s Table’ and any cooked potato dish must be cooked by a Jew, or else will be prohibited as Bishul Akum.

However, the Aruch Hashulchan, Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, writing in the 1890s in Novardok (located in modern-day Belarus), vigorously disagreed; maintaining that potatoes are food for the common man, and nobles would only partake of them due to the land’s overabundance of them, and not due to any inherent importance.[28] Interestingly, and although written more than a century earlier, and in Germany, Rav Yaakov Emden similarly wrote that potatoes are exclusively “peasant fare”. The Aruch Hashulchan adds that it is entirely possible that in the time and place of the Chayei Adam a potato dish might have been considered important, but by his time, the potato’s widespread popularity ensured that it no longer could have been rendered ‘Fit for a King’s Table’, and consequentially is excluded from the Bishul Akum prohibition. It is interesting to note that nowadays potato’s relevance is once again a matter of dispute among contemporary authorities regarding this important halachah.

The Maharsham, Rav Shalom Mordechai Schwadron, maintained that in his time (1890s, Berezhan, modern-day Ukraine), a cooked potato was considered “Oleh Al Shulchan Melachim’; however, if it was roasted it was not, and would not fall under the issur of Bishul Akum. The Debreciner Rav understands this to include potatoes roasting in oil (frying), and adds that nowadays any type of fried potato (french / freedom fries, anyone?) would definitely not be ‘fit for a king’s table’. Other contemporary authorities are even more lenient. For example, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin and the Yaskil Avdi seem to accept the Aruch Hashulchan’s position that standard potatoes are not ‘Olah Al Shulchan Melachim’, even nowadays.[29]

On the other hand, Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner and Rav Moshe Sternbuch are machmir for the Chochmas Adam’s opinion and maintain that nowadays potatoes can be considered ‘Olah Al Shulchan Melachim’, and conclude that even concerning fried potatoes one should be machmir. It should be noted that Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rav Moshe Feinstein seem to rule that potato chips and French fries are ‘Olah Al Shulchan Melachim’, but for a different reason (they do seem to accept that nowadays potatoes are chashuv; Rav Moshe’s talmid,Rav Aharon Felder, wrote that indeed Rav Moshe held that potatoes in modern times have the status of an important food and are subject to the strictures of Bishul Akum).[30]

However, Rav Yisroel Halevi Belsky[31]disagrees, maintaining that fried and roasted potatoes are in no way nowadays considered ‘Olah Al Shulchan Melachim’, and explains at length that Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov would certainly agree. Come what may, it is well known that the Badatz Eidah Chareidis of Yerushalayim is stringent for the machmir opinion and makes sure that potato chips under their hashgacha are strictly Bishul Yisrael (a much simpler proposition to ensure inEretz Yisrael than in Chutz La’aretz).

This Spud’s For You!

It’s amazing how not only ours, but the entire world’s, eating habits have been changed by this simple vegetable. Can anyone even imagine Shabbos without cholent or kugel, or Chanuka without latkes, or Pesach without the potato? The common potato certainly has an uncommon and fascinating history, especially when viewed through the lens of Halachah.

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This author was recently interviewed on the ‘Kashruson the Air’ radio show, discussing the topic of Potatoes and the Kitniyos prohibition, as well as whether Quinoa should be considered Kitniyos. To hear a recording of this show go to:https://soundcloud.com/jroot-radio/yosef-wikler-apr-07?in=jroot-radio/sets/kashrus-on-the-air.

This article was written L’Iluy Nishmas R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah, and Rochel Miriam bas Dreiza Liba, and l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.



[1] According to the Tiferes Yisrael (Avos Ch. 3: Mishna 14, Boaz Beg. 1), this act of Sir Francis Drake’s, of introducing potatoes to the European continent, merited his being classified as one of the Chasidei Umos Ha’Olam, as over the centuries potatoes have saved countless lives from starvation. Others included in this exclusive list include Johannes Guttenberg, who invented the printing press and thus enabled the disseminating of Torah on a mass scale, Johann Reuchlin, who defended the Talmud from being burned in numerous debates against the apostate Pfefferkorn, and Edward Jenner, creator of the modern smallpox vaccine, saving ‘tens upon tens of thousands’ of people. Thanks are due to Rabbi Elchanan Shoff, author of V’Ani BaHashem Atzapeh and Birchasa V’Shirasa, for pointing out this fascinating source.

[2] Mishnah & Gemara Brachos 35a and Tur / Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 203).

[3] See Rashi (Shabbos 13b s.v. ha’ochel), where he quotes the Aruch.

[4] See Gemara Brachos 40b.

[5] Aruch (Erech Petter), cited in Tehilla LeMoshe (hakdama to sefer Yismach Moshe al Tanach, vol. 3: pg. 12a). See Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (118: end 4).

[6] Likutei Mahariach (vol. 1, Seder Birchas HaNehenin pg. 182b), Maharam Ash (Zichron Yehuda pg. 23b s.v. al esrog), Shulchan HaTahor (204: 3 & Zer Zehav 2), Otzar Hachaim (Parshas Vayelech, Mitzvas Birchas HaNehenin), Pischa Zuta (Birchas HaPesach 12: 3), Minhagei Kamarna (pg. 25: 97).

[7] Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 82), Shu”t Migdalos Merkachim (Orach Chaim 18), and Shu”t Shraga HaMeir (vol. 6: 119), who staunchly defend the practice of making a shehakol. The Klausenberger Rebbe (Shu”t Divrei Yatziv ibid. s.v. v’ulam) adds another reason to do so: Since one can make flour out of potatoes and potatoes satiate and are filling, it might be considered in the same category of rice, whose proper bracha is mezonos (Mishnah Berurah 208: 25 and Shaar Hatziyun 31). The rule is that if one is unsure what the proper bracha is he should make a shehakol. He therefore opines that potatoes should also be shehakol.

[8] Although there is some debate as whether our rice is the rice mentioned by the Gemara and what the proper bracha should be [see Biur Halacha (Orach Chaim 208: 7 s.v. ad) for a synopsis of opinions], and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim vol. 1, Seder Birchos HaNehenin Ch. 1: 11), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (52: 17), and Likutei Mahariach (vol. 1, Seder Birchos HaNehenin pg. 183a) write that a Yarei Shamayim should only eat it as part of bread meal (and therefore not to have to make a bracha on it), and if not, should make a shehakol, and the Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 208: 38 & 39) concludes whatever minhag one follows is fine. Nevertheless, the vast majority of poskim rule that the proper bracha to make on our rice is indeed Mezonos (but its after-brachah is still Borei Nefashos as it is not one of the five grains). See Maaseh Rav (71), Birkei Yosef (Orach Chaim 208: 6), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Pinchas 18), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 21), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 25 and Shaar Hatziyun 31), Halichos HaGr”a U’Minhagav (pg. 167), Dinim V’Hanhagos Chazon Ish (Ch. 7, 1), Shoneh Halachos (vol. 1, 208: 24), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 208: 10; he adds an interesting mnemonic to remember the halacha: Amen - Orez, Mezonos, Nefashos), and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha Glosses on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (52: 18).

[9] Kraina D’Igresa (vol. 2, 88 s.v. v’hadavar).

[10] See Shulchan HaTahor (204: 3 & Zer Zehav 2), Otzar HaChaim (Parshas Vayelech,Mitzvas Birchas HaNehenin) and Minhagei Kamarna (pg. 25: 97).

[11] Shu”t B’tzeil HaChochma (vol. 4: 83), Shu”t Mishneh Halachos (vol. 6: 39 & 40), and many of the poskim whose teshuvos on topic are printed in the recent sefer Teshuvos HaPoskim (11; ppg. 143 - 170). See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 3: 63), who also defines the potato as such. Interestingly, although another famous Ashkenazic Rishon, the Maharil (Hilchos Erev Yom Kippur, Seudah Hamafsekes, 8; cited by the Elyah Rabbah, Orach Chaim 608: 9, and Kaf Hachaim, ad loc. 41), quoting his Rebbeim, mentions that a good way to cool off and get nutrition before a fast day is by soaking a so-called ‘erd-apple’, another common colloquialism used for the potato, in water and eating it. He could not possibly have been referring to our potatoes which were not extant in Europe for another 400 years. Additionally, he refers to it as a ‘Pri’, and not a vegetable. As an aside, soaked raw potatoes also does not seem to be one of the usual manners which we nowadays enjoy potatoes.

[12] Including the Ya’avetz (Siddur Beis Yaakov pg. 108b, Birkas HaNehenin, oskuf’: 18), Shu”t Imrei Yosher (vol. 2: 113, 2),Likutei Mahariach (vol. 1, Seder Birchas HaNehenin pg. 182b; who cites both sides but concludes that potatoes are indeed ha’adamah), Mishna Berura (202: 40), Kraina D’Igresa (vol. 2: 88), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 60), Shu”t B’tzeil HaChochma (vol. 4: 83), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 3: 124), Shu”t Mishneh Halachos (vol. 6: 39 & 40), Shu”t Az Nidberu (vol. 11: 48), Orchos Chaim (Spinka; 204: 2), Darkei Chaim V’Shalom (Munkacz; 293), Shvilei Dovid (Orach Chaim, Klalei Brachos, 5, Ch. 2: 14), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 203: 10), Shalmei Nissan (on Perek Keitzad Mevorchin, Haaros 99: pg. 314 - 315), and Rav Asher Weiss, in personal conversation. See also the recent sefer Teshuvos HaPoskim (11; ppg. 143 - 170) who cites the actual teshuvos from many contemporary poskim, including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, whom the vast majority conclude that the proper brachah on the potato is indeed ha’adamah.

[13] Mishnah Pesachim (Ch. 3: 1), Gemara Pesachim (42a - 43a), Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 5: 1). These are also the only grains with which one may fulfill his obligation of Achilas Matzah - see Mishnah Pesachim (35a), Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 6: 4), and Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 453: 1).

[14] See for example Mordechai (Pesachim 588), SMa”K (222), Ra’avad (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 5: 1), Hagahos Maimoniyos (ad loc.), Ohr Zarua (vol. 2: 256, pg. 59, 3rd column), Rabbeinu Manoach (on the Rambam ad loc.; cited in Biur Halacha 453: 1 s.v. v’yeish), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros B’Pesach 16), Terumas Hadeshen (113 and 133), Ritva (Pesachim 35a s.v. hani), and Tur (O.C. 453). Not that they all hold of the prohibition of kitniyos, but they all mention it. See also the Pri Megadim’s Introduction to Hilchos Pesach (vol. 2, Ch. 2: 6) and the Chida’s Tov Ayin (18).

[15] The Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 5: 1) explicitly permitted kitniyos, and even the Shulchan Aruch (Beis Yosef O.C. 453) calls it an Ashkenazic issue. Interestingly, and although not me’iker hadin, there are some Sefardim who are stringent as well, especially with rice - see Pri Chadash (ibid.), the Chida’s Tov Ayin (9: 6), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Tzav 41), Shu”t Rav Pe’alim (vol. 3 O.C. 30),Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 453: 10),Shu”t Yabia Omer (vol. 5, O.C. 37: 5), Shu”t Yechaveh Da’at (vol. 1: 9), Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion (vol. 3, Ch. 8: 15), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117: 2), Chazon Ovadia (Hilchos Pesach, ppg. 82 - 86), and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch O.C. 453: 1). Interestingly, the Ben Ish Chai adds that one who is machmir not to eat rice on Pesach may not cook nor serve rice to someone who does.

[16] Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 127: 1; and Nishmat Adam, Hilchos Pesach Question 20), Mor U’Ketzia (beg. O.C. 453), Shu”t Teshuva M’Ahava (259), Shu”t Chasam Sofer (O.C. 122), the Maharatz Chiyus’s Kuntress Minchat Kina’os, Mishnah Berurah (453: 7 and Sha’ar Hatziyun 6), and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 5). For a discussion on what is considered great need in order to allow kitniyos, see Shu”t Zeicher Yehosef (O.C. 157), Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Mahadura Tinyana vol. 4: 128) and Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 1, 28: 20). On the other hand, the Vilna Gaon is quoted (Ma’aseh Rav 184) as being extremely makpid with kitniyos, even ‘B’shnas B’tzores’.

[17] As mentioned previously, the Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 5: 1) explicitly permitted kitniyos. See also Beis Yosef (beg. O.C. 453), quoting and Rabbeinu Yechiel and Rabbeini Yerucham, who called the kitniyos prohibition a “minhag shtus, ridiculous custom”. The prohibition is also noticeably rejected by the Tur (O.C. 453), who writes regarding abstaining from rice and kitniyos on Pesach as a “chumra yeseirah, v’lo nahagu kein”. The Ya’avetz (Mor U’Ketzia beg. O.C. 453), quoting his father, the great Chacham Tzvi, famously declared that if he had the ability to cancel the kitniyos prohibition he would, as it mostly affects the poor. The controversial sefer Shu”t Besamim Rosh (348) even posits that the kitniyos prohibition was started by Karaites (!) and should not be followed. On the other hand, several authorities, including the Beis Meir (O.C. 453), Sha’arei Teshuva )ad loc. 1), and Maharsham (Da’at Torah ad loc. 1) counter his words, with the Maharsham emphatically declaring that ‘ain lanu ela minhageinu, v’chalilah lishmoa eilav’. He then cites the Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros B’Pesach 16, quoting the Maharash; also cited by the Sha’arei Teshuva) that anyone who transgresses the prohibition of kitniyos, ‘d’kol d’gazru Rabbanan ha’over alav chayav misah, v’over al lo sasur min hadavar asher yorucha’.

[18] Rema (O.C. 453: 1 and Darchei Moshe ad loc. 2), Levush (ad loc. 1), Bach (ad loc.) Pri Chadash (ad loc. 1; he cites a mekor from the Gemara - Pesachim 40b), Gr”a (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. and Ma’aseh Rav 184; citing the same source), Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 453: 3 - 5), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 127: 1), Sha’arei Teshuva (ad loc. 1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117: 4), Mishnah Berurah (453: 6 and Biur Halacha ad loc. s.v. v’yesh), and Aruch Hashulchan (453: 4 and 5). See also the Maharsham’s Da’as Torah (ad loc.), the Chida’s Tov Ayin (18), as well as the Maharatz Chiyus’s Kuntress Minchat Kina’os, Shut Chasam Sofer (O.C. 122), Shu”t Tzemach Tzedek (Lubavitch; O.C. 56), Shu”t Ma’amar Mordechai (32), Shu”t Maharam Brisk (48), and Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 1, 28), all of whom discuss the strength of this compulsory prohibition.

[19] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117: 4), Mishnah Berurah (453: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 4 and 5), Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra’ei Kodesh, Pesach vol. 2, 60: 2), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 3, 63), and the Klausenberger Rebbe (Shu”t Divrei Yatziv O.C. vol. 2, 196).

[20] See Beis Yosef and Rema (O.C. 473: 1) and major commentaries, including the Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. 5), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 3, 4, and 5), Chok Yaakov (ad loc. 5 and 6), Sha’arei Teshuva (ad loc. 1), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 6, and Biur Halacha ad loc. s.v. v’yesh).

[21] Chayei Adam (Nishmas Adam, Hilchos Pesach, Question 20) and Pri Megadim (Orach Chaim 453, Mishbetzos Zahav 1). However, the Pri Megadim himself rules that potatoes are not Kitniyos (Orach Chaim 464, Eshel Avraham 1).

[22] The vast majority of poskim, including the Pri Megadim himself (Orach Chaim 464 Eshel Avraham 1) rule that potatoes are not considered kitniyos. Others who explicitly write that potatoes are not Kitniyos include the Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2: 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 2: end 112; he adds an additional reason to be lenient: potato flour doesn’t look like grain flour and has a different consistency, therefore mitigating potential mix-ups), Shu”t Yad Aharon (16: 5), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 453: 5; he adds that with the advent of potatoes one should never have to rely on the hetter of permitting Kitniyos b’shaas hadchak), Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 127), Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 453: 21), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 3: 63), Halichos Shlomo (ibid.), Shu”t VaYaan Yosef (Mishpatecha L’Yaakov,Orach Chaim 41), and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, Orach Chaim end 207). It is widely quoted that the famed Divrei Chaim of Sanz questioned how the Chayei Adam could possibly have forbidden potatoes on Pesach when his sefer is titled ‘Chayei Adam’, literally ‘the Life of Man’ and potatoes are one of the necessities of life.

[23] Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2: 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (O.C. vol. 1: 127 s.v. v’ra’isi), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 3: 63), and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, Orach Chaim end 207), similar to the rule set by the Chok Yaakov (Orach Chaim 453: 9). Others who cite this sevara include the Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1: 87 & 88), and Shu”t Seridei Aish (vol. 2: 37, 2; new print vol. 1: 50). The first mention of such a sevara is in Shu”t Zeicher Yehosef (Orach Chaim 157) who writes that b’shaas hadchak one may eat ‘she’u’it’, green beans, on Pesach due to this logic. [However, it is important to note that he only utilized this sevara to be lenient in extenuating circumstances. Also the Shaarei Teshuva (453, 1) seemingly and directly argues, writing simply that they are kitniyos and thereby prohibited.] See Vayaged Moshe (17: 7) quoting the Tiferes Shlomo (Ohel Shlomo vol. 1, pg. 35), that we should give hoda’ah for the fact that potatoes were discovered after the Gezeiras HaGaonim. This author was recently interviewed on the ‘Kashruson the Air’ radio show, discussing this exact topic, as well as whether Quinoa should be considered Kitniyos. To hear a recording of this show go to:https://soundcloud.com/jroot-radio/yosef-wikler-apr-07?in=jroot-radio/sets/kashrus-on-the-air. This issue was also addressed at length in a previous Pesach article:The Quinoa – Kitniyos Conundrum: https://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5390.

[24] See Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 127 s.v. a”d) and Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28). This is a very important factor, as the Levushei Mordechai writes that although there are several reasons mentioned for the kitniyos ban, the most important one is that Kitnyos look similar to grain and get mixed up. This would obviously exclude potatoes from the kitniyos category. To paraphrase the Pri Megadim (Orach Chaim 464 Eshel Avraham 1), No one, not even a blind person, would mix up a potato with a grain kernel!

[25] Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28). However, Rav Shlomo Zalman personally was stringent with potato flour [starch] (ad loc. footnote 109). It is known that the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim were also stringent until the renowned Minchas Yitzchak became the Ga’avad and ruled that there was no reason to be machmir, even with potato starch. Other poskim who explicitly permit potato starch on Pesach include the Aryeh D’vei Ila’i (Shu”t, Kuntress Avnei Zikaron 10, based on the Pri Chodosh’s hetter - Orach Chaim 461: 2 regarding matzah meal), the Levushei Mordechai (Shu”t Orach Chaim vol. 1: 127) and Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (117: end 7 s.v. v’ugos). See also Shu”t Maharshag (vol. 2, Orach Chaim 119 s.v. umetchilla) who, as a side point to the main issue discussed, mentions as a davar pashut that there is no problem, even of Maris Ayin, regarding using potato flour on Pesach to bake. Thanks are due to R’ Moshe Langer for pointing out this important source. On the other hand, although the Arugas HaBosem (Shu”t vol. 2 –Orach Chaim 124) cites several sevaros lehakel, he nevertheless concludes that it is assur, based on the similarity of baking use of potato starch and chometz.

[26] See Gemara Avodah Zara (38a) and Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 113) and relevant commentaries for all related halachos of Bishul Akum.

[27] Chochmas Adam (66, 4).

[28] Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 113: 18). Interestingly, and although written more than a century earlier, and in Germany, the Ya’avetz (Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz vol. 2: 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi) also wrote that potatoes are exclusively “peasant fare”; similar to the Aruch Hashulchan’s assertion.

[29] Shu”t Maharsham (Shu”t vol. 2: 262), Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 4: 49), Teshuvos Ibra (Ch. 3: 42; originally printed in Rav Nissan Telushkin’s sefer Taharas Yisrael in a footnote on pg. 282 and more recently in Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu vol. 2 - Yoreh Deah 26 and 28; however he held that the reason is that they are not served as an accompaniment to bread, ‘lelafos bo es hapas’), and Shu”t Yaskil Avdi (vol. 7,Yoreh Deah 6: 4, 4).

[30] Shu”t Shevet Halevi (vol. 6: 108, 4, s.v. u’m”m; see also vol. 10: 124 where he is machmir even for potato chips), Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1: 438), Emes L’Yaakov on Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 113: footnote 42), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Yoreh Deah vol. 4: 48, 5), and Rishumei Aharon (vol. 1: pg. 35)

[31] Shu”t Shulchan Halevi (vol. 1, Birurei Halacha, 25).


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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