- The beautiful fruit and tree branches
- The etrog or citron
- Mystery of the Etrog
- Lovely to look at?
- Or is the Etrog a water-wasting, bitter, dry, inedible fruit?
The beautiful fruit and tree branches:
וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁון פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַעֲנַף עֵץ־עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי־נָחַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִֽים׃
“Now, on the first day (of the Festival of Booths) you shall take for yourselves produce of the beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Adonai Eloheikhem for seven days.”
Remember that the first day and closing eighth day of the festival will be days of total rest.
On the first day, gather the fruit of beautiful trees, and palm branches, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then rejoice before Adonai your Almighty One for seven days. You must observe this seven-day festival to Adonai every year. On the first day of the feast the worshipers were required to carry in their hands “the fruit of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows that grow by the streams.”
The etrog or citron:
Later rabbinic thought ruled that “the fruit of the beautiful trees” meant the Etrog or citron, and “the boughs of leafy trees” referred to the myrtle; provided it did not possess “more berries than leaves” (cf. Targum Onkelos).
Rule #1. The Etrogs (citrus, citron fruit) must be without blemish or deficiency of any kind (external appearance); the palm branches of sufficient height and fit to be shaken and each branch fresh, entire, unpolluted and not taken from any idolatrous grove.
Rule #2. Every worshiper carried the Etrog in his left hand and in his right hand he carried the Lulav or palm, with myrtle and willow branch on either side of it, tied together on the outside with its own kind, although in the inside it might be fastened even with gold thread.
Mystery of the Etrog:
The yellow-green, giant, knobby, lemon-shaped fruit with thick, dense skin similar in appearance to a lemon is bitter and so is its bark.
Yet, for the Sukkot festival it is mistakenly identified as the fruit of the tree of “loveliness” (pri etz hadar), one of the four species specified for rejoicing during the Feast of Sukkot. Some compare the tapered oval shape of the Etrog to a heart, thus justifying its standing as the heart of the Sukkot festival’s prayer (which is very sad because the inside of the Etrog is very dry and “bitter;” a bitter spirit is not the kind of heart Abba Avinu wants for His children).
The fruit is from Persia (not Israel), it is inedible, bitter, and dry; and the citron plant is a water waster.
Yet—the citron is said to be the most perfect of the four (palm branch, myrtle and willow), which the rabbis now say together symbolize the unity of different segments of the community. Why the Etrog was adopted during Sukkot to fulfill the Torah commandment to “take the fruit of a beautiful tree” makes no sense. It is argued:
Justification #1. The Etrog scores the highest in aroma.
Justification #2. The Etrog possesses a pleasant aroma (a scent of lemon and lime). This is said to symbolize a person who possesses scholarship and good deeds (the date palm has a taste, but no aroma; the myrtle, an aroma, but no taste; the willow, neither). Therefore, the Etrog is generally believed to be associated with “Wisdom.” Really?
Lovely to look at?
It is claimed by the Bramble Bush rabbinates that the Etrog in the Torah was lovely to look at. Selecting the most beautiful (hadar) Etrog is considered part of the commandment (mitzvah) of the Feast of Booths. In advancing proofs that the Etrog was indeed the “fruit of the beautiful tree” and even the fruit eaten in the Garden of Eden, the rabbinic authors of the Talmud asserted that since both the fruit and the tree had flavor, the Etrog met both qualifications of the phrase, the tree being as “beautiful” as the fruit.
Or is the Etrog actually a water-wasting, bitter, dry, inedible fruit?
The ancient account of Jubilees reports that the the “citron” was not one of the original elements of the “four kinds.”
However, the much earlier book of Jubilees understands Leviticus 23:40 quite differently. In chapter 16 of Jubilees it is said that father Abraham observed the very first Feast of Tabernacles at Beersheba. In this first observance of the feast it is claimed that Abraham took “branches of leaves and willow from the stream…branches of palm trees and (the) fruit of goodly trees” (Jubilees 16:30-31).
The older account of Jubilees reports, therefore, that the the “citron” was not one of the original elements of the “four kinds;” as believed by the later rabbinates. The citron is conspicuously absent. Instead there is a reference to the “fruit of goodly trees.” This older (BCE) extra-biblical text puts into serious doubt the later (CE) claim that the Etrog is the fruit of one of the good trees. Therefore, the Etrog must be called into question. It must be asked how did the (post first century) rabbinates get it wrong? How could the rabbis be so misled that they could call such a bad fruit a good fruit? How is the veneration of the Etrog beautiful, let alone biblical? The Etrog fruit is practically inedible! This is due to its bitterness and dryness. The Etrog fruit is a bad water waster.
In spite of the Etrog tree’s voracious appetite for water its fruit produces little pulp or juice. The Etrog is not an indigenous tree to Israel. The water wasteful Etrog tree, imported from Persia (Modern Iran), is quite unlike the native Israeli “water efficient” (good) fruit trees such as the fig, date, grape, olive, and pomegranate.