Series on The Etrog. Tractate Sukkah, Chapter Three, Page 35a

In Leviticus 23; 40 Moses conveys the Torah’s commandment: “On the first day [of the Festival of Sukkot] you must take hold for yourself… Fruit of the Beautiful Tree…” Using cryptic language, the scripture does not clearly identify the fruit it speaks of.

This in-depth mini-series focuses on the page in Masechet Sukkah that records the teachings of our Sages about this very question. Here, the Talmud sets out to solve the mystery of the enigmatic Etrog’s ID once and for all!

To be sure, our sacred oral tradition has always identified it as the Citron, yet is there any proof for this in the biblical text itself? The words of our Sages are richly illuminated by the multi-layered commentaries of the medieval and modern era.

We open with some serious digging in the sands of history to first address the white elephant in the room: is the ID of this Mitzvah Fruit really rooted in Biblical Soil, or is it (as some academics have recently claimed) but a later a Rabbinic Transplant?

A careful look at the precise language employed in the scriptural syntax seems to link botanical beauty with tasty symmetry. In highlighting a unique Fruit/Bark corollary there seems to be an easy method to obtain proof positive ID of the Beautiful Fruit.

Yet in our quest for unequivocal definition, we encounter the range of vegetative diversity flavouring life in Israel. And the matter seems far from resolved.

Undaunted, the Talmud will persist, and, in the end, it’ll be size that matters most in solving this Mitzvah Mystery!

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