Tag Archives: etrog

The Etrog- NeHedar! (Splendid!)

Image result for lulav and etrog
photo by Fort Tryon Jewish Center

It is the holiday of Sukkot, a beautiful holiday when we eat in a sukkah (a small structure with tree boughs in place of a roof) and make blessings over the lulav and etrog. It says in the Torah, “And you will take on the first day fruit of splendid trees, (עץ פרי הדר), branches of date palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook…” The Rabbis put the elements together to create the lulav and etrog as we know it. A palm branch is gathered into a bundle with myrtle and willow branches. And of course the עץ פרי הדר- the splendid fruit- is the etrog or citron.


art by Laya Crust

The question is, how was the etrog chosen? It is not native to Israel and it’s inedible. Where did it originate, how did it arrive in Israel, and why was it chosen to be used as the splendid and magnificent fruit?

It seems to be widely agreed that the etrog didn’t reach Israel until the period of the Second Temple. It was native to Persia- archeologists have found evidence of it dating back over 4,000 years.  There are references to the etrog in Indian literature dating to 800 BCE. It was taken to Greece by traders. It seems it made its way to Israel after the campaigns of Alexander the Great.  It was so unusual, beautiful and aromatic it isn’t surprising that it was chosen to be the beautiful fruit to accompany the lulav.

Image result for bar kokhba coins


Bar Kochba coins


Image result for etrog mosaic


Mosaic from Tiberian Synagogue



Those who have tried to eat an etrog or make etrog jam know that it is beautiful and smells heavenly, but the fruit is bitter and needs a lot of help to become edible. I wondered how it was used in Indian and Persian cooking. It seems that it is used mostly for medicinal purposes- in teas, and mixed with oils to use as ointments. The fruit is never eaten on its own since it’s so bitter. But it is used for tea infusions, made with sugar for etrog jam or marmalade, the zest is used in rice and as a colourful accent, and some people candy it then dip it ion chocolate…that sounds like fun!


photo by Fort Tryon Jewish Center

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the history of the beautiful, perfumed etrog. Enjoy your Sukkot, and maybe try something new with your etrog- but use an organically grown one !

Chag Sameach, Laya


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Sukkot 2nd Day

Sukkot day 2copyright Laya Crustcopyright Laya Crust

Sukkot Second Day

Kings I,  8: 2-21

King Solomon, around 952 BCE

Sukkot is one of the many joyous holidays we celebrate. After the seriousness of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur the prospect of eating lovely meals in a decorated Sukkah outdoors is certainly appealing. This year, in any case, we have the possibility of wonderful weather in North America since the holiday is coming in mid- September. Other years when those of us in the north have to wipe snow off our Sukkah chairs we remember why we should be living in Israel.

This haftarah describes the dedication of the Ark, transferring it from the mishkan to the Temple. The cheruvim are described with their wings outstretched sheltering the ark. Nothing was in the ark but the two Stone Tablets from Mount Sinai- think of that!! And a holy cloud filled the Temple- so thick the Kohanim couldn’t see.

There is an exquisite book of illuminated manuscripts from Amiens, France, created around 1280. (The manuscript is currently in the British Library in London.) All the illustrations are beautiful and richly coloured. The picture featured this week is based on one of the manuscript pages.

We see the cheruvim hovering over the ark, the staves of the mishkan, the “mizbeach” (slaughtering table) for the sacrifices, complete with the ritual knives for the “shechting”.

Beside the representation of the ark with the cheruvim are two sides of a Bar Kochba coin, 134-135 C.E.

JUDAEA, Bar Kochba Revolt. 132-135 CE. AR Sela...

JUDAEA, Bar Kochba Revolt. 132-135 CE. AR Sela – Tetradrachm (28mm, 14.07 g, 11h). Undated issue (year 3 – 134/5 CE). Temple facade, the Ark of the Covenant within; star above / Lulav with etrog. Mildenberg 85.12 (O127/R44´); Meshorer 233; Hendin 711. Near EF, toned, light deposits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the left are both sides of the Bar Kochba coin- one side showing the Temple in Jerusalem and the other showing the arba minim and the etrog. It was incredible to come across that Bar Kochba coin. It shows the religious faith that motivated Bar Kochba and his men in their years of struggle and rebellion. The love of Judaism- and the sanctity of the temple in Jerusalem- is what inspired and fueled their passion.

The medieval painting illustrates the words in the second day of the haftarah. The coins are a moving testament to the centrality of this holiday to the Bar Kochba fighters.

Beautifully there was another set of 36 coins found near the Temple Mount just a few short days ago, on September 9, 2013- a most auspicious day. 

There was also a golden medallion (above) showing a menorah, shofar and Torah scroll. The treasure, found by Dr. Eilat Mazar, is about 1,400 years old. The coins and medallions that are found are tangible proof of the continuous history we Jews have had in the land of Israel. And we are blessed to be able to say, “Next year in Jerusalem” and know that we can be in Jerusalem even earlier- this year!


Do you have a theory as to why Bar Kochba chose to use the symbols of the Temple and the four species of Sukkot on his coins? What do you think of the depiction of the “cheruvim” with their faces and colourful wings? I’m interested to read your comments and ideas.

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