Wednesday, April 05, 2006

OK, so I'm totally addicted the the Baby Center Jewish board. With Passover starting next week, there have been some interesting food issues on the Board lately that got me thinking...

For most of my Jewish relatives, Passover seems to mean a set of dreary restrictions on diet choices. No bread? No pasta?! I, on the other hand, really look forward to the special dishes we only make at this time of year, like my favorite breakfast: matzah granola. It reminds me of the anticipation I used to feel as a child (long before being Jewish) for Christmas. Of course, I can't make my grandmother's Swedish spice cookies for Passover! (hmm, or can I?... I'll have to play with that recipe this summer.)

So it's fascinating to me when I find that things I'd taken as hard-and-fast halachic rules about what's kfp turn out to be not so certain. Example:
recent article in the New York Times
on the orthodox tradition of using *Kosher for Passover* baking powder and baking soda!!

My only interpretation of this is that chemical leaveners must have been restricted on the basis of "putting a stumbling block before the blind" - i.e., an observant Jew using chemical leaveners may put less knowledgeable Jews' understanding and practice at risk. If the less knowledgeable person eats or sees this food, he may not realize it's been lifted with baking soda and think it has yeast. Knowing the cook as an observant person, the less knowledgeable Jew could thus be led astray into non-halachic practices by accident, thinking, "well, so-and-so made leavened cookies so it must be ok."

I was also intrigued by one woman's question about serving lamb on Pesach - kosher or no? I LOVE lamb, and have done braised lamb shanks for Passover int he past, but got the sense from some (Ashkenazi) cookbooks and sites that this was sort of tacky, if not downright forbidden. So I thought I'd do some exploring, and found the following halachic commentary (as cited on a Passover site that seems to be coming out of Switzerland):

According to the Mishnah Talmud, you may not roast a lamb for the Pesach Seder, since in the Temple era, the paschal lamb was only permitted to be slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem, roasted, and then eaten at a Pesach Seder in Jerusalem. Rambam comments, "Where it is accepted practice to eat roast meat on the night of Pesach one may do so, but where this is not accepted practice one may not do so and this is a decree of the sages so that people should not think that it is paschal lamb. However, everywhere it is forbidden to eat roast lamb at the seder."

So, roasted lamb is a no-go everywhere, other roasted meat may be ok if all your neighbors do it, but what about braised lamb? Or boiled lamb? Or fricassed lamb?

"The Tur" [Oraĥ Ĥayyim 476] is more circumspect. It says that one may not eat a lamb that has been roasted whole over a spit.

The Sephardim, as elsewhere in Passover food laws, seem less concerned with adding additional restrictions to the earliest prohibitions, so non-roasted lamb is ok at the seder, particularly if you know it wasn't ritually slaughtered and roasted in Jerusalem before being shipped to your Passover table. I'm pretty sure my Oregon-gown lamb hasn't flown around the world, so we're good to go there.

As far as I know, Swedish-Irish Jews are neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazi - in fact, they are so rare they probably constitute their own category. Since my dear husband has mixed ancestry, we can swing either way on this, so this year seder will feature a Moroccan feast (without the rice - can't go quite that far) with braised lamb, fava beans, and a Sephardi cooked charoset with no nuts.

Almost makes all the cleaning worth it!


Blogger Maggid Sarah said...

Hi Tzipporah! Shavua tov and hag pesach tov! I'm wondering if your Oregon grown lamb has been schected according to laws of kashrut? Not challenging you on the issue of kashrut directly as we are all working in different places on that one... but since you're talking halacha, I thought I'd mention it in that context. Thoughts? You know I love it when you prod me on these issues, so this is a friendly query.
Blessings to you and your family.

4/09/2006 12:44 AM  
Blogger Maggid Sarah said...

p.s. this is on my mind because there are several specific references to kashrut in the torah readings before and throughout the pesach festival season.

Blessings to you again, and thanks for this excellent "food" for thought.

4/09/2006 2:41 AM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Welcome, Maggid Sarah!

I'm going off to buy my Oregon lamb tonight or tomorrow, and haven't found any that are free-range, organic, AND kosher yet, so I usually settle for the first two. It's a higher priority for me that any meat I eat has a decent life while alive, than that its blood is thoroughly removed. Although avioiding suffering during slaughter is also key, so far I haven't found any good guarantees there from anyone. I don't trust "kosher" anymore to mean that, given the kosher mass-meat market.

Of course, once you finish your training and set up as mashgiach nearby, this will be easy! :)

4/11/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger Maggid Sarah said...



It just so happens that a young Hassid aquaintance of mine just inherited an organic, free range sheep farm in Corvallis and is considering setting up an operation there-- this would make local eco-kosher options available to us all. Baruch HaShem!

Blessings to you for a gutten pesach!

4/12/2006 1:46 AM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Ohmigosh!! That's excellent! keep me informed on developments with the farm, I bet we can drum up LOTS of customers here...

4/17/2006 6:31 PM  

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