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RICE (Heb. אֹרֶז, orez), Oryza sativa, introduced to Ereẓ Israel at the close of the Second Temple period. Within a short time it became a product of considerable economic importance. The rice of Ereẓ Israel was of excellent quality and an important export. There was said to be "none like it outside Israel" (TJ, Dem. 2:1,22b) and as a result it was laid down that it had to be tithed as *Demai even outside Israel (Dem. 2:1). The Israel rice was distinguished from rice grown outside Israel, for example rice grown in "Ḥulata," i.e., "Ḥulat ["the plain of "] Antiochia" in the valley of the Orontes, it being noted that the latter was red (cf. Tosef. ibid.). Some good rice was sown in Paneas in the valley of Dan, but most of the excellent rice (the white species apparently) came from other parts of the country (TJ, Dem. 22d). Rice is a summer crop (Shev. 2:7), growing in water and requiring careful and prolonged preparation in sowing and planting, three months before the New Year (TJ, Dem. 2:2, 33d in accordance with the reading of the Rome Ms.). Instead of plowing, the earth was stirred with water (Shev. 2:10). The rice was eaten after the husk had been removed by threshing and the thin skin of the seed by pounding (TJ, Ter. 1:4, 40d).

Rice dishes were many and varied, and many formulas were suggested for the appropriate blessing, among them that of Simeon he-Ḥasid for a rice delicacy: "Who has created delicacies with which to delight the soul of every living being" (TJ, Ber. 6:1, 10b). The nutritive value of rice was regarded as double that of wheat (see TJ, Pe'ah 8:5, 20d; and cf. Pe'ah 8:5). According to Johanan b. Nuri "rice is a variety of grain," therefore the same blessing must be recited over it as over bread, and the full *grace after meals recited after eating it, but the other rabbis disagreed (Ber. 37b). He also holds that " *karet is incurred for eating it in its leavened state [on Passover] and a man may discharge the duty of eating unleavened [bread] with it on Passover" (Pes. 35a). On this point, too, the other rabbis disagreed, holding that "rice, *sorghum , *millet , and *legumes do not ferment but merely decay" (TJ, Ḥal. 1:1, 57a; Pes. 2:4, 29b). Since rice was not regarded as leaven, dishes made from it were permitted on Passover, and some used to eat them with beets on the night of Passover (Pes. 114b). It was decided that rice was not a species of grain, hence rice bread is exempt from ḥallah (Ḥal. 1:4). However, in the time of Ashi there were localities in Babylon where rice was the only bread of the inhabitants. In such places ḥallah was separated from the bread as a symbol in order "that the law of ḥallah be not forgotten by them" (Pes. 50b–51a).

From the sources quoted above it is clear that rice was not regarded as belonging to the class of legumes. Both Maimonides and Samson of Sens, however, included it among legumes and since there were authorities who forbade the use of legumes on Passover, rice too came to be included in the prohibition. Combined with this was the fact that some commentators and decisors held that both orez and doḥan (sorghum) are species of millet (Rashi to Ber. 37a). However, the Tosafot (ad loc.) rightly render orez as rice and doḥan as millet. To this day Ashkenazim refrain from eating rice during Passover whereas Sephardim permit it. The description of orez in rabbinical literature as well as its etymology clearly prove that orez is to be identified with the Greek ὄρυζα and the Latin oryza, i.e., rice. In recent times a number of attempts have been made on a small scale to grow rice again in Israel (previously the Arabs grew red rice in the swamp of Ḥuleh and its vicinity).


Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 730–8; ET, 1 (1951), 176–8; 7 (1956), 229–32; J. Feliks, in: Bar-Ilan Sefer ha-Shanah, 1 (1963), 177–89; I. Rabin, in: JSS, 11 (1966), 2–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Tzome'aḥ, 20.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.