There are a variety of differences in kashrut observance between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews such that certain foods or practices permitted by one community are forbidden by the other. For example:
- Sephardic Jews can use the same dishwasher for meat and dairy dishes; Ashkenazic Jews cannot.
- Sephardic Jews are stricter than Ashkenazic Jews with regard to both bishul yisrael and pas yisrael.
- Ashkenazic Jews don't eat legumes or rice on Passover; Sephardic Jews do.
Given these restrictions, how can we eat in each other's homes? After all, doesn't the Sephardic Jew's home become non-kosher for the Ashkenazic Jew when the Sephardic Jew uses his dishwasher for meat and dairy dishes together or cooks rice on Passover? Doesn't the Ashkenazic Jew's home become forbidden to the Sephardic Jew when the Ashkenazic Jew is lenient with regard to bishul akum?
With regard to each of these issues, it is very easy to find someone who is so strict that s/he will refuse to eat in another's home. But is there a way to be lenient and allow us all to share meals together? After all, isn't the world of Torah Jews small enough already without dividing us further?
With regard to each of the issues listed above, we can — and indeed should — find every leniency possible to allow Torah Jews to eat together. After all, in none of these issues is either group saying the other is not keeping kosher; we are saying that we hold by a different standard — but that both standards are legitimate observances of the halacha.
Thus with regard to pas yisrael, the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 112:15) states this explicitly:
One who is strict regarding non-Jewish bread is permitted to eat off the same plate as another who is not so strict even though the taste of non-Jewish bread will be mixed with the taste of Jewish bread. Some say that one who is strict regarding non-Jewish bread can eat with others who are not so strict in order to prevent ill will. But we do not learn from here regarding other forbidden foods.
As for kitniyot, everyone agrees that legumes and rice are not actual chametz and that Ashkenazic Jews are concerned that chametz is mixed in with them. Thus you can eat in your Sephardic friends' homes, but don't eat the kitniyot.
With regard to dishwashers, there are many reasons to permit an Ashkenazic Jew to eat in the Sephardic home in spite of this issue. Among them:
- there is soap in the dishwasher which is lifgam
- there is no actual bishul in the dishwasher, only irui
- the dishwasher is likely a kli sheini or kli shlishi anyway
- stam kli aino ben yomo thus any absorbed tastes are lifgam
It must be noted that all of these statements are b'dieved for Ashkenazic halacha, but I and many others hold that, for the sake of eating in a Sephardic home, we can hold by these leniencies even l'chatchila.
In short: check with your own rabbi before turning down that invitation to shabbos dinner. It is more likely than not that you can work out the issues.
Note: the statement that "you can work out the issues" applies to a kosher kitchen that is holding by a legitimate halachic standard that is different from your own. It is not valid to apply this statement to a non-kosher kitchen or to the home of someone who does not properly observe halacha!
Questions to ponder:
- What is bishul akum all about?
- What is pas yisrael all about?
- What are kitniyot?
- Ashkenazic and Sephardic Dishwasher Use