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Enigmatic Etrog

Succah Daf 39

Musings on the Etrog – By Susan Suna

While the Torah tells us to take a פרי עץ הדר, the Etrog, specifically, is not named. The Rabbanim learned from the verse that this species is the one whose wood/bark tastes like its fruit. “Hadar” is also understood as Hadir – the animal pen. Just as a pen is a place where both old and young reside, so too, it should be a fruit where both old and new are on the tree at the same time. Others say that Moshe Rabbenu taught that it was an Etrog, and that the translation of “Hadar” in Aramaic is Etrog. 


Rebbi Aba says that the Etrog was none other than the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, as Hava saw that the tree was good. And there is no other tree whose bark tastes like its fruit except for the Etrog. Interestingly, Rashi teaches that when Hashem created trees on the third day, he instructed the land to produce trees that taste like their own fruits. Instead, the land produced trees that made fruits. The Etrog is the only tree that fulfilled Hashem’s command. According to the Sfat Emet, this is the reason that the Etrog tree is called “Hadar”, i.e. splendid, as it did not sin. Perhaps this is another reason why a righteous person is compared to an Etrog. This complements the traditional understanding that, just as an Etrog has both taste and fragrance, so too a righteous person both learns Torah and performs good deeds. 


Beyond my philosophical ponderings, our daf discusses the Halachic status of the enigmatic Etrog. Rabban Gamliel and Rebbi Eliezer dispute the status of the Etrog. Is it like a fruit or a vegetable? Rabban Gamliel says that it is like a fruit regarding the laws of Orla, fourth year fruit and Shmita (where we determine the Etrog’s status based on when it blossomed), while it is like a vegetable for Maaser (i.e. whether it is Maaser Ani or Sheni is determined by when it is picked). Rebbi Eliezer claims that an Etrog is a fruit for all Halachic matters. They both agree that the status of the Etrog with regards to Shmita is determined by when the fruit blossoms. While most Rishonim follow this opinion, the Rambam states that the Etrog is like a vegetable as it requires a lot of watering as vegetables do. Therefore the status for Shimta is determined by when the Etrog is picked. This year as Shmita enters, we will, for the most part, be using Etrogim that were picked before Rosh Hashana and therefore do not have Kedushat Sheviit. Next year we will be using Etrogim that blossomed during the seventh year and they will have Keduchat Sheviit according to the majority opinion. These Etrogim as our Mishna mentioned should either be given as a gift or as Rav Huna in the Gemara stated their price should be included in the price of the Lulav.

Teachers: Yehudit Epstein & Dena Rock

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