by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
We truly live in incredible times. We are so blessed to be able to individually attend to the mitzvos of Hashem. In times in the not so distant past, the Arba Minim, the 4 species used for the mitzvot of Succot – the esrog (citron fruit), lulav (palm shoot), hadassim (myrtle branches), and aravos (willow branches) were basically not available outside of their temperate zone – meaning they grow in Israel and other Mediterranean countries.
So for Jews of Europe and other more distant places (and those of different climate), getting the 4 species was costly, time consuming and fraught with danger. Nowadays it’s just a little bit easier…
Estrog (citron fruit) selection, Geulah 4 Species Market, Jerusalem
Bright lights allow a close look at your options, which have to fulfill a long list of religious requirements…
The Esrog (citron fruit) is described as a Beautiful Tree Fruit. It is carefully examined for flaws, some of which lower the esthetic aspects, some of which can render it invalid for use in the mitzvah.
This year the lulavim (palm shoots) are as expensive as the esrogim (citrons), due to both Egypt and Gaza choosing to not export this product to Israel. That’s annoying for us but destroyed the livelihood of many farmers in Egypt and Gaza (of a product that no one else has a use for). It remains unfortunate they continue to hate the Jews more than they love their own people.
Most vendors are very scrupulous, as they have to be to make the nice profit that comes from this business. It’s for religious purposes and therefore each of the species has to meet very exacting requirements – some of which aren’t visible (such as, they can’t be stolen – can only come from a tree that is owned, in the public domain, or permission is given), and therefore only trusted sources are generally used. In other cased rabbinic supervision is provided.
UNFORTUNATELY in some cases problems are found. I spotted this at a major 4 species orchard center…
What you’re looking at is a group of temporary-resident farm workers in Israel trimming haddasim (myrtle branches) that aren’t long enough before branching off – thereby making them appear to be straight and long. This is considered “kosher bidi’eved”, kosher only as a last resort if no proper type is available (or affordable).
If one is not an expert and/or doesn’t closely examine one’s haddasim (myrtle branches), one would never know this had been done. Now the orchard wasn’t hiding this work, nor were they packaging these myrtle branches in the “high quality kosher supervised myrtle branches” packages. I’ll assume these are being targeted at children’s educational 4 species sets, or very poor not-very-religious neighborhoods, or even to be given out. But seeing this done was a surprise for me (and I called my rabbi to verify that indeed this is unusual and not considered appropriate for normal use conditions.)
So if you’re a Jew, make sure to get your arba minim (4 species) today, before Succot!