Insights Into the Etrog

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 Now on Hoshana Raba the mitzvah is no longer applicable, but I am still not in a hurry to eat it..."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!