2) Makes a mockery of Halakha, as ever greater logical contortions are required to justify an ever more baroque system of halakhic decisions. [One distinguished Rav told me that he thought that potatoes should be considered qitniyot, but that no one would accept such a ruling. Think of the implications for the non-Gebroks community! Thank God I'm a Litvak!]
3) Drives more and more wedges between Jews, as one is terrified to eat in someone else's home. Need I remind these commissars of qitniyot, these Torquemadas of Kashrut, how Rashi explains the principle that if a religious person says something is kosher, that one must believe him/her (Rashi, Yevamot 88a, s.v. ואמר):
והא ודאי פשיטא לן דסמכי' עליה כל זמן שלא נחשד דאי לאו הכי אין לך אדם אוכל משל חברו ואין לך אדם סומך על בני ביתו.
'Obviously, we rely upon him, so long as he is not suspect. For, if not, no one would be able to partake of his friend's food, and no one could rely on the members of his own household.'
4) Violates the rule of not going to such extremes as to make the Torah (חס וחלילה) look ridiculous (הבו להו דלא להוסיף עלה). [Cf. שבועות מ"ח ע"ב ; ט"ז, או"ח סי' שס"ג ס"ק ד; ש"ך, יו"ד סי' מ"ח ס"ק ל'; ]
Now, I want to make this perfectly clear. I am in no way advocating that Ashkenazim stop observing the hallowed custom of our forefathers, not to eat qitniyot. The fact that there were medievals who objected to the practice in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is, effectively, irrelevant as far as practice is concerned. Deference to the collective wisdom of the ages is the essence of Tradition, of מסורה. Therefore, legumes (peas, beans etc.) may not be consumed on Pesach by Ashkenazim, and no one has the authority to do away with this practice! Corn, though it could not have been known by the Sages of Ashkenaz, has universally been classified as qitniyot, and there is some logic to abstaining from them. (Peanuts and Peanut Oil are another matter. I'm personally conflicted about soybeans, though I don't eat them on Pesach.)
However, the obsessive expansion of these restrictions is not only wrong halakhically, it betokens a deeper malaise in the Orthodox community.
For one thing, it neglects the deeper values that the Torah wishes us to instill in ourselves, our families and our people. True, as Professor Haym Soloveitchik notes at the conclusion of his classic study, Rupture and Reconstruction, the search for strictures can be viewed as part of a larger search for God:
It is this rupture in the traditional religious sensibilities that underlies much of the transformation of contemporary Orthodoxy. Zealous to continue traditional Judaism unimpaired, religious Jews seek to ground their new emerging spirituality less on a now unattainable intimacy with Him, than on an intimacy with His Will, avidly eliciting Its intricate demands and saturating their daily lives with Its exactions. Having lost the touch of His presence, they seek now solace in the pressure of His yoke.
Nevertheless, as the contemporary upsurge in the search for direct contact with God shows, this specific phenomenon not only fails to provide solace, it drives people away from the Torah, generally (especially as contemporary Israeli representatives of the Torah are largely incapable of representing anything Jewish as being intellectually respectable.)
More seriously, as we become increasingly obsessed extremism, we lose sight of the deeper values that provide the basics of the Torah, and without which we are courting disaster. The danger is not new. It has, however, become acute. A straight line runs from Rabbenu Bahya (Introduction, Hovot ha-Levavot):
One of the hakhamim was asked an esoteric question in the realm of divorce law, to which he responded: You, Sir, are asking about something that would in no way harm us if we did not know the answer; but do you know all that you should regarding the commandments that you are not entitled to ignore, and concerning which it is unbefitting for you to sin, that you turn to other questions that will bring you no improvement in your knowledge of Torah and faith, and will in no way amend that which is crooked in your soul?
to David Berger's remark (Tradition, Spring 1982):
GershomScholem once remarked that an Orthodox acquaintance told him that God had made a serious mistake when he placed lo tignov among the Ten Commandments; instead, he should have arranged a gloss to a gloss on the Ramo which would have said, "Yesh nohagin shelo lignov."
Which brings me back to מורי ורבי, the Rav זצ"ל. On many occasions, he inveighed against turning mitzvot into 'ceremonials.' Ceremonials, he once remarked to me, are ritual actions that are not based upon moral and intellectual foundations. Ceremonialism, he was wont to say, is paganism.
I fear that we are highing far to close to the outer limits of the Rav's words. There is more than physical hametz to be destroyed on Pesach.