Passover- The Laws Regarding Eating RICE
Regarding the law of eating rice on Pesach. Certainly from the Halacha there is no problem to eat rice on Pesach. The Gemara Pesachim tells us that one of the items on the night of Pesach that we used to eat, for the two cooked foods that you are supposed to eat which are Zecher LiKorban Pesach and LiKorban Chagiga, was rice. You see clearly from the times of the Gemara they used to eat rice on Pesach. The Gemara even discusses whether or not you can use rice flour in order to make Matzot. The Gemara answers no to this, but you see that it was a question. They answered that it was not because of Chametz, but because it was not one of the grains. The bottom line is that you see that rice was not a problem.
Only in modern history did the issue arise. It was about 200 – 300 years ago when the rice fields used to be next to the wheat fields, and they used to use the same bags. They used the same sacks for wheat as they used to package the rice. So it was very common that you would have some wheat that would fall in the rice because the bags were not fully cleaned out after each use. Hence, it was possible to find wheat and rice together, and it became possible on Pesach to have a problem and find wheat mixed in with rice.
There is a story about the Peri Chadash who was Sephardic, who followed the Minhag to eat rice, which was unlike the Ashkenazim. He resided in a country where they would never have such a problem of wheat becoming mixed up with rice. What happened? On one of the nights of Pesach, he saw a big fat wheat kernel that opened up right on top of his rice. So he accepted upon himself from that day on that he would not eat rice on Pesach. So you see that it can happen even in our lands.
The Halacha for the Ashkenazim is that they must follow their Minhag and it’s forbidden for them to eat rice on Pesach in all situations. It’s still a Minhag to follow even though the Gaon Ya’abetz wrotethat if he had the power hw would lift the ban. He wrote that, because there are limited foods that are permitted on Pesach. How many potatoes can one eat? Rice is a basic staple food. But the Ashkenazim rule to follow the Minhag and not to break it.
However, Sephardim do not follow this Minhag. At least our community does not accept this Minhag. It is permissible to eat rice on Pesach so long as you check it 3 times before you eat it, and remove any wheat kernels that are found. It is still possible today to find some wheat mixed in. People that check rice will tell you that it is possible to find some kernels of wheat mixed in. How and why this happens is a good question. The bottom line is that it is there. Therefore it’s proper to take the rice and put it on a white cloth, and sift through it, in order that the dark pieces of wheat will become visible. It’s preferable not to check three times in a row, because you get tired by the third time, and you might not do a good checking. It is not proper to have minors check as you can not trust them when it comes to this issue. For that matter you also can’t trust the maids to check the rice. You must have girls that are over 12 years old or boys over 13 that are responsible that know what they are looking for and check the rice three times.
Regarding a Sephardic man that is married to an Ashkenaz woman. In this case, the lady follows the husband. Since the husband eats rice on Pesach, even though all her life she didn’t eat rice, once she marries it is considered she moved to a place where the Minhag is to eat. The Halacha is to take on the Minhagim of the place where you are. Therefore again, an Ashkenazi lady that marries a Sephardic man who eats rice on Pesach, she is then permitted to eat rice on Pesach.
Now for the opposite case. Let’s say you have an Ashkenaz man that marries a Sephardic lady. The Sephardic lady all her life ate rice and now she married an Ashkenazi. So certainly in her husband’s house it is forbidden for her to cook rice on Pesach, because she must now follow the Minhagim of her husband. However, Chacham Ovadia says that when she goes to her parent’s house, she can eat rice. He said this inconsistency specifically applies in Israel, because since Maran is considered the foremost authority of Halacha in Israel, and according to Maran it is permissible to eat rice, so therefore she is in a quandary. So, since her husband is Ashkenazi, it is thus forbidden for her to cook rice in her house. However, since Israel is following Maran, so when she goes to her parent’s house she can eat the rice. Of course the husband can eat from the pots that rice was cooked in. The pot is not considered Chametz.
Regarding Carolina Rice and all these other rices. Carolina Rice is Kosher for Pesach just like it was Kosher last year and the year before. So you don’t have to buy special rice. Regular rice that you eat all year around that is kosher, it is also kosher for Pesach.