Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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5 Tishrei 5760 - September 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
The Esrog
by Rivka Tal

"And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the hadar tree, branches of palm trees and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Hashem seven days" (Vayikra 23:40).

The mitzva of the four species is unique in that hidur, the enhancement of the mitzva, is an essential aspect of its performance. It is written, "This is my G-d and I will worship Him with beauty." Chazal explain: "Beautify yourself before Him with mitzvos." Any mitzva should be performed in the most esthetically attractive and superior manner possible. In the case of this particular one, however, the Torah explicitly calls the esrog "a fruit of the hadar tree" -- beautiful and stately. When we compare the four species to the body, the esrog is likened to the heart, so as to atone for any unbefitting thoughts of the heart. Everything one does emanates from the will of the heart.

Chazal understood hadar to refer to the citron, the esrog. Most fruits have seasons in which they are found on their tree. Chazal conclude that pri etz hadar is the esrog tree because the word hadar is interpreted to be a fruit which "dwells (ha-dar) continuously all year on the tree." Thus, they understand the word dar to mean the opposite of temporary. The Rambam and other commentaries state that there was an oral tradition dating back to Sinai equating the esrog as the fruit of the hadar tree. Nevertheless, Chazal sought a hint in the chumosh for the accepted definition.

The esrog tastes good and has a pleasant fragrance. It is compared to the righteous, who are learned and also perform good deeds. Akin to the lulav, which comes from a fruit- bearing tree, the esrog is itself a fruit and is symbolic of the fruit that man enjoys both in this world and in the next. The esrog is also compared to Avrohom Ovinu because it is a beautiful fruit and Avrohom's old age was beautiful and fruitful.

According to one interpretation in Bereishis Rabba (15:7), R' Abba of Acco taught that the tree from which Odom and Chava ate in Gan Eden also was the esrog tree. In Bereishis 3?5 we read that Chava saw "the tree was good for eating" and R' Abba points out that of all trees, only the bark of the esrog tree is edible, along with its fruit.

Since the esrog was used for a mitzva, we should treat it with respect. Marmalade is one use, but many people prefer to stud it with cloves [holes must be made with a thick nail, and not too close together since the esrog invariably shrinks. It's a job.] for use for havdola besomim. Others make liquor out of esrogim.

My neighbor is lucky enough to have an esrog tree. Today she challenged me to find its four nascent esrogim and I was stumped. Upon first glance, the baby esrogim looked exactly like the leaves! Their stems have numerous thorns, making us wonder how they can be easily picked. She reports that the tree must be watered every day from Rosh Chodesh Sivan onwards. Often, the resultant esrogim are posul, but she makes a delicious, fragrant esrog marmalade every year. If she doesn't have enough, esrogim are available at bargain prices just after Simchas Torah...

So what shall we do with the esrogim? How about some preserves or marmalade? In case you didn't know, the Food and Drug Administration has "Standards of identity" which have been in place since 1940 for what constitutes a jam or a jelly. Interestingly enough, the current standards are based on the housewife's formula that even pioneer women used when making their own jams and jellies -- equal amounts of fruit to sugar. Here we are concerned with marmalade, which seems to fit the definition.

"A marmalade contains some amount of fruit rind, usually from a citrus fruit. The process can be adapted to any citrus (oranges, lime, kumquats, Mandarin oranges etc.) or a mixture of varieties."


Oranges can be added if there aren't enough esrogim. The smell and flavor of the esrog permeates the marmalade.


Esrogim - or part oranges


Peel the esrogim, trying not to get any of the white pith. Peel away and discard the white pith. Remove pits (there are many) and place in a muslin bag. Cut the esrog flesh into thin slices (easier in a food processor, according to my neighbor). If adding oranges, the preparation process of the fruit is identical. Put peels, flesh and muslin bag in a stainless steel or glass container. Cover with water and let stand overnight. Pour off water and add enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil.

Drain off water once again, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil with the pits and simmer slowly until the peel is soft. Discard pits.

Measure the cooked fruit and liquid. Add one cup sugar for each cup of fruit and liquid. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cook the boiling mixture to the gel stage of 220 degrees F. This is best determined with a jelly thermometer, but if you don't have one, do the marmalade test: place a plate in the freezer and let cool for about five minutes. Put a few drops of marmalade on the plate. If the surface of the marmalade makes ripples when touched, it has set.

Have jars clean and hot. Pack to within 1/4 inch of top and seal. Heat process for 6 minutes in boiling water bath canner (10 minutes for cold, unsterile jars). Count time from when water returns to boil.

Note: jelly jars and paraffin are no longer recommended. An incomplete seal with paraffin and the absence of a heat treatment may result in mold growth and toxin production in the jelly.

[Editor's note: It is customary to eat this esrog marmalade on Tu Bishvat and pray for an esrog mehudar in the upcoming year. Your prayer will help it grow nicely. Esrog is also known to be a segula for many things, including inducing a quick and easy birth. We would be grateful to any readers with specific information in the segula area to let the public know!]


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