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The evolvement of the mitzvah of shaking the Lulav Print E-mail
Sunday, 24 September 2023

The Rabam, Mishneh Torah- Zmanim- Hilchot Shofar, Sukkah and Lulav 7:13-18 speaks about the evolvement of the mitzvah of Lulav:

The Original Mitzvah:

The mitzvah of shaking the lulav only applies on the first day of the holiday of Sukkot in every place during every age and is practiced even on Shabbat, as we see in Vayikra 23:40 “And on the first day, you shall take for yourselves fruit of the majestic tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of the leafy tree, and willows of the brook…”

In the Mikdash (Jerusalem) alone the lulav is taken on each of the seven days of the holiday as it says “and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” When Shabbat falls during the later days, the lulav is not taken. This is a decree lest one carry it four cubits in the public domain, as decreed regarding the shofar.


Why was this decree not put into effect on the first day of Sukkot? Because taking the lulav on the first day is a mitzvah from the Torah, even outside of Jerusalem. Thus, the laws applying to it are not the same as those applying to the remaining days since on the subsequent days of the holiday a person is obligated to take the lulav only in the Mikdash (Jerusalem).


Changes once the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was Destroyed:


When the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, the Sages ordained that the lulav be taken everywhere for the entire seven days of the festival, as a remembrance. Every day the blessing would be recited over it. This enactment, like the other enactments instituted by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai when the Temple was destroyed is only temporary. When the Temple is rebuilt, these matters will return to their original status.


While the Temple was standing, the lulav would be taken in Jerusalem when the first day of Sukkot fell on Shabbat. The same applies in other places (throughout Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora) where they were certain that this day (the fifteenth of Tishrei) was celebrated as a holiday in Eretz Yisrael. However, the places which were distantly removed from Jerusalem would not take the lulav on this day because of the doubt.


When the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, the Sages forbade everyone from shaking the lulav when the first day of the holiday occurred on Shabbat including the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael who had sanctified the new moon. This was instituted because of the inhabitants of the distant settlements, who were not aware of when the new month had been declared. Thus, a uniform guideline was established, rather than having some take the lulav on the Shabbat and some not. The guiding principle was that the obligation of taking the lulav on the first day applies in all places and there is no longer a Temple to use as a point of distinction.

At present, when everyone follows a fixed calendar, the matter remains as it was, and the lulav is not taken on Shabbat anywhere- not in the outlying territories or in Eretz Yisrael even on the first day of the festival. This applies even though everyone knows the actual day of the month. As stated above, the reason for the prohibition of taking the lulav on Shabbat is a decree lest one carry it four cubits in the public domain.


We learn from the Rambam that in our time, nobody shakes the lulav on Shabbat regardless if they are in Jerusalem, Israel or the Diaspora. When the Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt, we will go back to shaking the lulav on the first day, even on Shabbat but the Diaspora will not shake to lulav on the other days of the holiday. Hopefully, when the mashiach comes all of the Jews will be back in Israel and then they can have the opportunity to come to Jeusalem and shake the lulav there.


Until that time, Jews all over the world will shake the lulav on every day of the holiday aside from Shabbat and yearn for the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt speedily in our days.

The Sukkah as a Correction for the Tower of Bavel Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The Haftara for the first day of Sukkot (Zecharia, Chapter 14) speaks about the war of Gog and Magog and the future days when the nations of the world will be obligated to come to Jerusalem to observe the holiday of Sukkot.

What is the connection between Gog and Magog and Sukkot?

Rabbi Shimshon Repahael Hirsch (Bamidbar 29:13) explains that the name Gog is similar to the word gag, roof which is the opposite of a sukkah, an unstable building with a flimsy covering of schach, foliage. The nations think that they don’t need to rely on God since they can protect themselves by building a strong roof. The war of Gog and Magog is the war between the roof and the sukkah- putting our trust in ourselves vs. putting our trust in God.

Rabbi Hirsch (Chorev 221) points out: We can find a universal explanation to answer the question of why the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah was chosen for the nations to observe. One of the most decisive sins from the beginning of humanity was the sin of the building of the Tower of Bavel (Breisheet, Chater 11) so that they could rebel against God. In contrast, in the future days, prophecied by Zecharia (14:9) “God will be the King over all the land; on that day God will be One and His Name will be One.” Observing the mitzvah of Sukkot, the symbol of our trust in God, is a form of atonement for the nations for the building of the Tower of Bavel.

In the future days, humanity will be uplifted and God will accept all under His Sukkat Shalom (shelter of peace) which He will spread over all of the families of the earth and the One and only God will not just be considered to be God of the Jewish people, He will be accepted as the God of all of humanity.

According to Radak and Abarbanel, once they have seen the great miracles that He performed for His nation, all of the nations that attacked Jerusalem and survived will acknowledge that God is the King over the entire world. His Kingship will no longer be recognized only by Israel but by all nations.

May we be blessed with the words from the Hashkivenu Prayer:

Safeguard our going and coming- for life and for peace from now to eternity. And spread over us the sukkah (shelter) of Your peace. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who spreads the Sukkat Shalom upon us, upon all of His people and upon Jerusalem.

What do Israelis today have in common with Yehoshua and Ezra? Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 October 2019

In Nechemia 8:13-18 we read about how Sukkot was celebrated after the Second Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was built:

On the second day, the heads of the families of all the people, the Kohanim and the Leviim were gathered together to Ezra, the scribe, to delve into the words of the Torah. They found written in the Torah that God had commanded through the hand of Moshe that B’nai Yisrael should dwell in Sukkot during the festival that is in the seventh month. They commanded that they should announce it and make a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, Go out to the mountain and get branches with olive leaves, pine needles, myrtle leaves, palm leaves and leaves of the braided tree, to make sukkot (booths) as it is written (in the Torah).” So the people went and brought these items and made themselves sukkot, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courtyards, and in the courtyards of the house of God, in the plaza of the Water Gate and in the plaza of the Gate of Efraim. The entire congregation that had returned from the captivity made sukkot and dwelt in sukkot. B’nai Yisrael had not done so since the days of Yeshua (Yehoshua) Bin Nun until that day, and there was very great joy. Ezra read in the scroll of God’s Torah day by day, from the first day until the last day. They observed the festival for seven days as well as Shmini Atzeret, the assembly on the eighth day, according to the law.

Why were they specifically told to go to the mountain and get branches with olive leaves, pine needles, myrtle leaves, palm leaves and leaves of the braided tree?

According to Rav David Tzvi Hoffman in his commentary on Vayikra, during the harvest season, the etrog (citron) and arava (willow) were readily available so the people already had them. Therefore they only needed to bring back the myrtle (hadas) and palm (lulav) from the mountains in order to complete the set of four species. The branches from the other trees listed would be used for schach (the roof of the sukka).

Sukkot were built everywhere: The residents of Jerusalem built them on their own properties, either on their rooftops or in their courtyards, The Kohanim and Leviim used the sukkot that were built in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash and Olei HaRegel (pilgrims) used the sukkot in the plaza of the Water Gate and in the plaza of the Gate of Efraim.

Why was this Sukkot with Ezra celebrated with the same enthusiasm as the celebration at the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun?

The Talmud, Arachin 32b teaches us that B’nei Yisrael coming back to the Land of Israel with Ezra was similar to B’nei Yisrael coming into the land at the time of Yehoshua and renewing their obligation in Shmita and Yovel as well as the Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Aretz, the mitzvoth that are only in effect in the Land of Israel.

Malbim explains that the exciting part was that they built sukkot in Reshut HaRabim, the public areas and not just on their own private property.

The Jewish People are back in the Land of Israel. We see sukkot everywhere- private sukkot, public sukkot, beach sukkot and sukkot at campgrounds and nature reserves. We have the four species readily available in market places, street corners and even in supermarkets. Palm branches are seen piled up all over Jerusaelm, waiting to be taken away on roofs of cars to be used for schach. As we celebrate the holiday of the harvest we must not forget that now that we are back in our own land there is an excitement of being obligated in observing the mitzvoth that can only be observed in the Land of Israel and we must relearn the laws once again.

There is no Sukkot like Sukkot in the Land of Israel. May we all merit to celebrate together in the Modern State of Israel.

Why we need to thank the Byrds Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 September 2018

Out of the twenty-four books of the TaNaCh, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) which we read on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot is one of the least well known. An excerpt of the book (3:1-8) did become popular as part of the song “Turn Turn Turn” written by Pete Seeger in the 1950s which reached #1 on the Billboard top 100 when sung by the Byrds in 1965.

Aside from the words “turn, turn, turn” the song almost follows the Biblical text exactly:

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.

This list of opposites gives us the ups and downs in life.

Sukkot is called “Zman Simchateinu”, our happy time, as this was the time of year that if all went well, the produce would be gathered into the house and we would not have to worry about what we would be eating in the upcoming months.

Sukkot pushes us to be happy even if we have gone through a difficult period. We now have to appreciate what God has given us and leave our homes to show that everything that we have is not due to our own strength but is rather due to God’s involvement.

There will always be highs and lows and it is important for us to appreciate the good times and remember that the difficult times will pass.

An extra line was added to the Biblical verses at the end of the song as a plea for world peace: “I swear it’s not too late.” This song became popular during the peace movement in the 1960s but it still rings true today. May we see peace in the State of Israel and throughout the world.

Now that you had preview from the Byrds, you can check out the rest of the book!

Why Avraham is our first virtual Sukkot guest Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 October 2017

When the angels disguised as men went to visit Avraham, he was more than happy to host them. In Breishhet 18:4 Avraham tells his guests: “Let a bit of water be brought and wash your feet. Rest yourselves under the tree.”

In Breisheet Raba 48:10 we learn that Avraham seated the guests under the tree so that they would have a comfortable, protected, shaded place to sit. The Midrash teaches that since Avraham seated them under the tree, his reward would be that his future offspring, B’nei Yisrael would always be protected by God.

When B’nai Yisrael left Egypt, God gave them shade in the desert, as it says in Tehillim 105:39: “He spread out a cloud for shelter, and a fire to illuminate the night.”

How do we know that God also gave Avraham’s offspring shade when they were living in the Land of Israel? In Vayikra 23:42-43 we read: “You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven day period; every native in Israel shall dwell in sukkot so that your generations will know that I caused B’nai Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” The sukkah is like a chuppah (canopy) of honor which protects us and gives us shade from all harm, so that in every generation we will remember that God protected B’nai Yisrael and enveloped them in the clouds of glory.

From where do we see that God will protect us and envelope us in the future/ the days of the mashiach (messiah)? Yishayahu 4:6 states: “And there will be a sukkah as a shade from the heat in daytime as a protection and refuge from storm and from rain.”

Since Avraham went out of his way to protect his visitors, the Jewish people will forever be protected by God. It is not a coincidence that the first of the Ushpizin (virtual guests) is Avraham followed by his son, Yitzchak, his grandson, Yaakov, his great grandson, Yosef and his future descendants Moshe, Aharon and David.

Sukkot, the Happy Holiday Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014

In Dvarim 16:13-15 we read: “You shall make a festival of Sukkot for a seven day period, when you gather in from your threshing floor and from your wine cellar. You shall rejoice on your festival (visamachta bichagecha)- you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, the Levite, the convert, the orphan and the widow who are in your cities. A seven day period shall you celebrate to Hashem, your God, in the place that Hashem your God will choose, for Hashem will have blessed you in all your crop and in all your handiwork and you will be completely joyous (vihayita ach sameach).”

Rashbam explains that the reason the word “ach” is used is to contrast Sukkot with the holidays that came before it: “Although Rosh HaShana is a day of remembrance and Yom Kippur a day of atonement, Sukkot is a feast of joy and thanksgiving for the bountiful crops God has blessed the people with.”

The Baalei HaTosafot add: “At Sukkot, when all has already been gathered in and the sins had been forgiven on Yom Kippur, rejoicing is mentioned three times: once in Vayikra 23:40 ‘You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree and brook willows and you shall rejoice (visamachtem) before HaShem, your God, for a seven-day period’ and twice in Dvarim: ‘You shall rejoice on your festival’ and  ‘you will be completely joyous’. You should be rejoicing for the produce of the earth, for the fruits of the tree and for the forgiving of the sins. Rejoicing should be your exclusive concern.”

Rabbi Naphtali Hirz Wessely (1725-1805, Hamburg) explains that we should be happy on Sukkot. However, the word “ach” limits us and tells us not to get carried away, it is a warning against frivolity and folly.

Nehama Leibowitz adds that the word “ach” limits the rejoicing which is to be a festive one, in the spirit of the commandment, with no alien motives which are apt to emerge at this season when the sight of plenty may go to one’s head and joy may turn into riot.

Although we are commanded to be happy, we can’t just do what we want all week as if we are on vacation. We move out of our comfortable homes into sukkot (booths) which must be built in a specific manner. We must buy kosher four species that are prescribed by the Torah which can often be very expensive. We have restrictions over Yom Tov as well as over Chol HaMoed.

Despite all of the laws and restrictions, when we are sitting outside this evening in our Sukkot under the full moon, there is no question that this is the holiday where we can really feel God’s presence. It is also a happy time to be in Israel as we only have one day of Yom Tov, you can find a sukka almost everywhere including on the beach and they have really good deals on Lulav and Etrog sets!


The Sukkah of the Sea Monster Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 September 2013

On the last day of Sukkot, when we leave the Sukkah for the last time, we say the following prayer:


Yehi Ratzon- May it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our forefathers that just as I have fulfilled the mitzvah and dwelled in the Sukkah, so may I merit the coming year to dwell in the Sukkah of the skin of the Leviatan (Monstrous fish). Next year in Jerusalem.


The Leviatan was created on the Fifth day of the creation (Bresiheet 1:21 “And God created the great sea monsters”). The Leviatan is the ruler of all of the creatures of the sea. In Masechet Bava Batra 74b we learn that the Leviatan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in the World to Come and its beautiful skin will be used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place.


In a prophecy about the destruction of our enemies in Yishayahu 27:1 we read “On that day God will bring punishment with His harsh, great mighty sword upon Leviatan… and He will kill the great fish that is in the sea.”


According to Radak, the Leviatan symbolizes the great world powers. Yishayahu uses the death of the Leviatan to allude to the eventual downfall of the enemies of Israel.


According to the Daily Mail, last month a thirteen foot long sea monster washed up on the beach in Villaricos, Spain. Marine biologists are having trouble identifying it saying that they have never seen anything like it before.


Since there is a good possibility that the sea monster that was found dead in Spain was a Leviatan, then there is also a good possibility that soon we will see the downfall of our enemies as well.


As we celebrate Sukkot and pray for peace we look forward to the day that we will sit in the Sukkah made from the skin of the Leviatan.


Photo: Is this the Leviatan (the Sea Monstor from the 5th day of Creation)?

The Importance of Having Kavana in the Sukkah Print E-mail
Friday, 05 October 2012

Why do we sit in Sukkot?


The answer is found in Vayikra 23:43: “So that your generations may know that I made B’nai Yisrael dwell in Sukkot when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt”.


The Tur in Orach Chayim explains: We sit in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus of Egypt since everyone was there to see the Exodus and nobody can deny that it took place. The Sukkot in the desert were the clouds of glory which protected B’nai Yisrael from the heat and the sun. The Sukkot that we make remind us of those miracles.


The Bayit Chadash points out that the fact that the Tur who usually sticks to explaining the Halachot spends time here explaining the reason behind the mitzvah shows that part of the mitzvah is to have Kavana (intent) when we are in the Sukkah to remember the Exodus from Egypt.


Is it enough to have Kavana that we are doing a mitzvah by sitting in the Sukkah or do we have to have Kavana that God took care of us in Sukkot when we left Egypt?


According to the Pri Migadim and Mishna Brura, one would still have fulfilled the mitzvah if  they ate in the Sukkah while only having the intent of fulfilling the mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah (without focusing on the Exodus from Egypt).


Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger gives a stricter opinion. If a person didn’t focus on the Exodus from Egypt during the meal on the first night then he should actually eat another Kezayit, this time making sure to focus on the Exodus. One should teach their children and grandchildren on the first night the reason why we sit in the Sukkah in the same way that we teach our children about the Exodus at the Pesach seder.


We see from here that Kavana is a very important aspect when fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkah. Since we are physically sitting outside eating our meals in a booth instead of eating at our dining room table we may automatically have more Kavana. However, over time we may get so used to the mitzvah that we may take sitting in the Sukkah for granted.


Sukkot is a great opportunity to invite guests who are not as familiar with the holiday who will ask a lot of questions and give us the opportunity to explain why we are living in a booth for a week.

harona Margolin HalickmanL'ay ghy we are living in a booth for a week.with the holiday who will ask a lot of questions and give

The Sukkah: The Symbol of God’s Shelter Print E-mail
Friday, 02 October 2009

From Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shmini Atzeret we recite Psalm 27 L’David Hashem Ori… The psalm alludes to Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.


The sentence that alludes to Sukkot is sentence 5: “For in the day of evil he shall hide me in his Sukkah, He will conceal me in the concealment of his tent…” The idea that is expressed here is God’s protection and shelter of the Jewish people. Both ‘sukkah’ and ‘ohel’, tent, are used over and over in the Tanach as places that God protects and where God dwells.


As we prepare to celebrate Sukkot and as we spend the last week of the season reading Psalm 27, Let’s take a moment to appreciate God’s protection of the Jewish people.


From the Hamas prison we now see on a videotape released today that with Hashem’s protection Gilad Shalit appears to be in good health. The Jewish heart in all of us, after seeing this video, wishes we could reach into the TV screen and pull Gilad out of the evil and darkness. With the continued protection of Hashem, we pray that Gilad Shalit will be released soon.


Let’s make an effort to have special kavana when we say the words in sentences 12 and 14: “Deliver me not over to the will of my enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me who breathe “Hamas”, violence…Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage and hope to Hashem”.

What Do The Mitzvot of Dwelling in the Land of Israel and Dwelling in a Sukkah Have in Common? Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2008

In Tehillim (Psalms) 76:3 we read: “Vayehi viShalem Suko, umeonato viTzion”, In Shalem also is His Sukkah and His dwelling place is in Tzion.


The Vilna Gaon points out that the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah and the mitzvah of Tzion, dwelling in the Land of Israel have something very special in common. When you perform these mitzvoth, you enter into them with your entire being, with your entire spirit and with your entire body- even with your shoes. In the same way that the mitzvah of Sukkah is “taaseh”, you must personally do it (as opposed to something that is done for you), so too is the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel, you must personally live there and build it up, it is not something that can be done for you.


Why is the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah more widespread than the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel?


It is a lot easier to pick yourself up and say “for this week I will be eating and sleeping in an alternate home without all of the comforts that I am used to (sort of like going camping or going on vacation), it is another thing to pick up your entire life and move away from your home, your friends, your family, your career etc.


However, think of what a privilege it is to live in a country where your entire being, your entire spirit and your entire body are involved in mitzvoth just by dwelling there. In Israel, we don’t have to wait for Sukkot to have that form of experience (maybe that is why we get two less days of Yom Tov!)


Sukkot in Israel Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 October 2007

As the Sukkot holiday begins tonight, Israel is bustling with lots of action. Lulavs and Etrogs are abound, Sukkot are on almost every street corner,including four in front of our building. Jerusalem is gearing up for many activities including Ir David, The City of David tours, Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel where 25,000 people descend on the Old City to be blessed by thousands of kohanim and a giant Sukkah made of candy can be visited at city hall!

Another city that is getting ready for its many guests is Hevron, the capital for the first seven years of King David’s reign and burial place of Avraham, Sarah, Yitzhak, Rivka, Yakov and Leah.

Yesterday, my husband Josh and our son Dov had the opportunity to visit Chevron and saw first hand the preparations that were being made.  Huge Sukkot were being erected and a stage was being prepared for a massive concert that will take place over Chol Hamoed.

Josh and Dov visited Tel Rumeida where the ancient city walls and homes have been uncovered from the time of Avraham and also went to Beit Hadassah where a Jews of Chevron were slaughtered by Arab rioters in 1929. There is now a memorial along with a museum detailing these attacks. Today, twenty-five Jewish families live in the Beit Hadassah complex.

The tour then went to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and stopped in the Avraham Avinu Shul which had been destroyed in 1948 by the Arabs and turned into a goat and donkey pen. In 1989 the community and synagogue was rebuilt as a beautiful edifice.

At their last stop, Ma’arat HaMachpelah stories were told of how Avraham purchased the cave from Ephron as a burial site for Sarah and how Jews were not permitted to pray there for over 700 years until the city was liberated in 1967. The building is now “shared” with the Arabs and is only completely accessible to Jews for ten days a year where they can visit the Yitzhak hall, in which portals to the depths of the cave are found. Some of these days fall on Chol Hamoed Sukkot.

As we enter our Sukkot, our temporary homes, we must remember how important it is to continue to visit Jerusalem, Chevron and other places in Israel to ensure that they permanently remain in our hands.

The Sukkah as Divine Protection Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 October 2006

The Mitzvah: (Vayikra 23:42) "You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days, every native born Israelite shall dwell in sukkot".

The Reason: (Vayikra 23:43) "So that generations will know that in the sukkot I caused B'nai Yisrael to dwell when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am Hashem your God."

Why do we need a holiday to remind us that B'nai Yisrael lived in sukkot (booths) when they left Egypt?

According to Rashi who quotes Rabbi Eliezer (Sukkah 11b), there is a deeper meaning. Sukkot were not booths as we know them today. Rather, they were the "Ananei HaKavod", the clouds of glory that protected B'nai Yisrael when they were in the desert.

Ramban agrees with this view. Ramban adds that while Pesach reminds us of the miracle of the exodus from Egypt, the holiday of Sukkot reminds us of the ongoing miracle, God's protection throughout their forty year stay in the wilderness.

Where do sukkot (booths as we know them today) fit in?

According to Rabbi Akiva (Sukkah 11b), B'nai Yisrael made themselves real sukkot (booths). Ramban explains that B'nai Yisrael made literal booths on the onset of the winter season on account of the cold. When we dwell in sukkot, we are reminded that B'nai Yisrael did not live in homes for forty years. Rather, God was with them and they lacked nothing.

It is now over a year since the residents of Gush Katif have been forced out of their homes. Many are living in temporary dwellings, even tents while they wait for a permanent place to live.

As we sit in our sukkot, let's not forget how fortunate we are to have God's protection both inside and outside our homes. The fact that we have permanent homes to return to at the end of the holiday should not be taken for granted.

Insights Into the Etrog Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005

In Vayikra- Emor 23:40 we are told "You shall take for yourselves pri etz hadar- the fruit of the beautiful tree."

How do we know that this fruit is the etrog? According to Ramban, the word etrog is the Aramaic word for the Hebrew word hadar. The word etrog means desirable, Onkelos says that it is nechmad, pleasant to the sight.

According to the Kabbala, pri etz hadar is the fruit in which there is a great deal of desire. This is the fruit that Adam and Chava sinned with in Breisheet 3:6: "And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable as a means of wisdom and she took of the fruit and she ate".

Chava's punishment for eating the fruit was that she would have a difficult time during childbirth.

How do we make a tikkun, correction for Chava's eating of the fruit without permission?

There is a custom for a pregnant woman to bite off the end of the etrog (pitom)on Hoshana Raba. According to Chava Weissler in Voices of the Matriarchs, this custom was thought to ensure an easy childbirth. The custom appears both in Tsenerene (a women's bible published in 1600) as well as in books of tkines (women's prayers).

After biting off the pitom, the pregnant woman should give tzedakah, pray the she has an easy labor and recite the following prayer:

"Ribono shel olam, because Chava ate of the etrog, all of us women must suffer such great pangs as to die. Had I been there, I would not have had any enjoyment from the fruit. Just as now I have not wanted to render the etrog unfit during the whole seven days when it was used for a mitzvah. Now on Hoshana Raba the mitzvah is no longer applicable, but I am still not in a hurry to eat it..."

I am not guaranteeing that this custom will make childbirth a breeze, but it certainly can't hurt.

The Gemara in Ketubot 61a adds that a pregnant woman who actually eats the etrog (after the holiday) will have children that smell good.

Bon Apetit!