Monday, April 10, 2006

Canola, Canola, Canola

My friend Rabbi Ari Kahn informs me that rapeseed is grown near wheat fields. Hence, he avers, no reasonable Passover supervision is feasible for rapeseed oil.

What does one do? One Googles.

What does one find? Overwhelmingly the Kashrut supervision sites say: Besser Nisht.

I'm still not convinced. Isn't possible Hametz (assuming that's true), battel before Pesah? The oil is denatured and re-processed. Doesn't that militate against both a kitniyyot designation and a ruling of חוזר וניעור? R. Moshe paskened that even in cases where it's difficult to sort out the species, the prohibition is restricted to legumes that were originally banned. וואו שטייט אין דברי הראשונים אש מאן טאר ניט עסען רייפ-סיד אוף פסח? [UPDATE: No Rishonim, but a מחלוקת אחרונים. See Resp. Avne Nezer, Orah Hayyim no. 373 and Resp. Maharsham I no. 183. The latter explains the odd formulation on the הכשר. See the next update.]

I welcome any and all responses.

I'm grateful for all of the responses. Despite the fact that the בעסער נישט opinion is quite common, there is a very strong case to be made for allowing Canola Oil. The major points are provided in a review by the Rav of Alon Shvut (2), R. Yosef Zvi Rimon. The article is not on the VBM website. I'll be happy to send it along to anyone who asks. (Thanks to Rabbi Professor Dov Frimer שליט"א for sending it along to me.)


ari kahn said...


Rapeseed is derived from two Brassica species, B. napus L. and B. rapa L. To distinguish between them B. rapa is often called turnip rape and B. napus is called Swede rape. Spring and winter types exist of both species. The rapeseed oil of world commerce comes from these two species and to a minor extent also from the mustards, especially B. juncea Coss. (brown mustard) and Sinapis alba. L. (yellow mustard).
In addition to B. napus L. and B. rapa L., Brassica includes cultivated species B. carinata Braun (Abyssinian mustard), B. nigra Koch, and B. oleracea L. The four most widely cultivated species, B. juncea, B. napus, B. oleracea, and B. rapa are highly polymorphic including oilseed crops, root crops, and vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts.

The relationships among the cultivated species were largely clarified by cytological work of Morinaga (1934). According to his hypothesis, the high chromosome number of species B. napus (2n = 38, AACC), B. juncea (2n = 36, AABB), and B. carinata (2n = 34, BBCC) are amphidiploids combining in pairs the chromosome sets of the low chromosome number species B. nigra (2n = 16, BB), B. oleracea (2n = 18, CC), and B. rapa (2n = 20, AA). This hypothesis was verified by U (1935) with successful re-synthesis of B. napus. Re-synthesis of B. juncea and B. carinata was accomplished later by Frandsen (1943, 1947). The low chromosome number species may have developed from ancestral species with even lower chromosome numbers as suggested by Robbelen (1960).
Brassica crops may be among the oldest cultivated plants known to man. In India, B. rapa is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit literature from ca. 1500 BC and seed of B. juncea have been found in archaeological sites dating back to ca. 2300 BC (Prakash 1980). Rapeseed production has a long history in China. The Chinese word for rapeseed was first recorded ca. 2500 years ago, and the oldest archaeological discoveries may date back as far as to ca. 5000 BC (Yan 1990).

Historically, B. rapa seems to have the widest distribution of Brassica oilseeds. At least 2000 years ago, it was distributed from northern Europe to China and Korea, with primary center of diversity in the Himalayan region (Hedge 1976).

Brassica napus has probably developed in the area where the wild forms of its ancestral species are sympatric, in the Mediterranean area. Wild forms of B. napus are unknown, so it is possible it originated in cultivation. Production of oilseed B. napus probably started in Europe during the middle-ages; B. napus was introduced to Asia during the 19th century. The present Chinese and Japanese germplasm was developed crossing European B. napus with different indigenous B. rapa cultivars (Shiga 1970).

Rapeseed/canola production
by D.L. Johnson, R.L. Croissant1

Quick Facts...

* Processed rapeseed produces two products: an oil that has industrial and edible uses, and a high-protein meal used in animal feed.
* Plant winter rapeseed approximately four to six weeks before winter wheat. It will be ready for harvest at approximately the same time as winter wheat. Production practices and equipment are similar to that used with small grains.
* Do not grow industrial-type rapeseed that contains high erucic acid without a marketing contract. Canola is low in erucic acid and is edible.
* The potential of rapeseed as an alternative dryland crop can best be realized when integrated into a conservation tillage management system.

Ben Bayit said...

Again, it seems to me that the original ban had to do with methods of storage, not issues regarding methods of consumption. I aver this from the gezerot regarding "kitniyot" that were imposed specifically in non-Ashkenazi communities such as the ban on sugar in Constantine, Algeria.

That being said, it behooves us - as Modern Orthodox Jews - to look at the issue from a non-sectoral, modern food production point of view. When the rabbanut bans turmeric for everyone (incl. Sefardim) for similar reasons to those described by R. Ari Kahn - then there is something there to this ban.

On the other hand do we need to be bound by minhagim - even those 100's of years old - that were once described as minhag shtut by legitimate poskim at the time? Are we being intellectually honest as MO Jews by maintaining these kitniyot bans year in and year out, in the face of clear and obvious changes to modern methods of food production that render them irrelevant while we live in mixed communities where 50% or more of the kashrut observing Jews eat these foods on Pesach? All this whilst trying to find "leniencies" or "sociological explanations" for changes we innovate in areas such as women's talmud study or changes to the synagogue? I'm playing devil's advocate here, but something tells me that my spodik wearing grandfather would have less problems with me sharing a plate of humus on Pesach with my sefardi neighbor - even at my house - than with the feminist changes in the shuls/schools many MO liberals are trying to force down our throats.

Ask yourself a simple question - why does the Rabbi of your little town send out a flyer year in and year out stressing the humrot of kitniyot for Ahskenazim while noting the permissibility for Sefardim, all the whilst advocating changes to the educational system, the synagogue structure and even marriage/divorce issues that many (if not most) of his community find radical and extreme. Certainly the Sefardim in his community that find these changes to be a bit too "liberal" for their tastes get a good chuckle at his inconsistency in digging up kulot for women's minyanim while starving for decent food on Pesach. At least the ones I've spoken to do :-)

Jeffrey said...

The truth is that the original stricture was based not upon planting proximity, but upon the fact thatlegumes were planted instead of wheat in the wheatfields of northern Europe every three years in order to replenish the soil nutrients that were dissipated by the wheat crops. The concern (not accepted by many Tosafists) was that the kitniyyot would actually contain residual wheat in significant quantitites so as so constitute a problem. So it's neither storage nor planting proximity.

The operative question is: To what degree is the extent of the custom pegged to its original parameters and to what degree does it develop?

Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

if sephardim accept rapseed oil - and the hashgacha here in israel says it is kasher l'pesach - then the issue can't be "wheat" - but kitniyot. and if it is not kitniyot, then its not kitniyot.
I find it hard to beleive that R. Ovadia is meikel on a chashash of chametz.

Ben Bayit said...

The handmade soft matzot being sold with Rav Ovadia's hashgacha (as opposed to the Yemenite competition that features Rav Mahpud) have a picture on the box showing a shulchan seder comprised of three items - the matzot, a boiled egg and very big bowl of green lentils. Rav Ovadia will never ban for Sefardim anything that is not based on Maran.

YK said...

According to the OU, rapeseed was traditionally considered kitniyos by earlier poskim (I do not have the maareh Mekomos offhand, but if you want, i could send them to you). Hence it's knocked out of consideration for ashkenazim from the start.

Jeffrey said...

Please do.