Etrog: Wikis


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A diagram of the Halachic properties of an etrog

Etrog (Hebrew: אֶתְרוֹג‎) refers to the yellow citron or Citrus medica used by Jews on the week-long holiday of Sukkot.

While in modern Hebrew this is the name for any variety citron, its English usage is commonly applied only to those varieties and specimens typically used for the Jewish ritual as one of the Four species. In any case, it doesn't apply only to one specific variety[1].

The romanization as Etrog is according to the Sephardic pronunciation, widely used in Israel through Modern Hebrew. The Ashkenazi pronunciation as in Yiddish, is esrog or esrig. Rarely it could also be transliterated as Ethrog even in scholarly work, which is according to the Yemenite Hebrew.[2]


In the Bible

Rabbinical Judaism sees the etrog referred to in the Bible as pri eitz hadar (פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר), literally "a fruit of the beautiful tree." In modern Hebrew, hadar refers to the genus citrus. Nahmanides (1194 – c. 1270) suggests that the word was the original Hebrew name for the citron. According to him, the word etrog was introduced over time, adapted from the Aramaic. The Arabic name for the citron fruit, itranj (اترنج), mentioned in hadith literature, is also associated with the Hebrew.

Size and shape

The fruit is ready to harvest when it reaches about six inches in length. Although for commercial use it is not harvested before January, when at optimum size – for ritual use it must be picked while still small, in order to reach the market in time. The optimal size is also the best for marketability, as by growing larger it may lose from its beauty. Since the citron blooms several times a season, fruit may be picked during July and August, and even in June. According to Halacha the fruit must only reach the size of a hen's egg in order to be considered kosher, but larger sizes are preferred as long as they can be held with one hand. Marketwise, a nice size fetches a higher price, as long the fruit is also good in other aspects. If both hands are needed to hold it, it is still kosher, but less desirable.

A Moroccan Etrog with a prominent Gartel

The etrog may differ in shape, since the several citron varieties used for that purpose, each bear fruits with a distinct form and shape. Furthermore, a specific variety or even a single tree may also bear fruit in several shapes and sizes. An etrog of completely round shape is not-kosher, whilst a slanted or bent specimen is permissible but not the best. The bearing branch must be arched down with care, in order to get the fruit growing straight in a downward position. Otherwise the fruit will be forced to make the curvature on its own body, while turned downwards because of its increasing weight. This practice must be performed very delicately in order not to break the stiff citron twig. While many prefer the pyramid shape of variety etrog, and others for the barrel shape of the Diamante, some look for an etrog with a gartel—a hourglass-like strip running around the middle, more commonly found on the Moroccan citron.

An unearthed mosaic from the floor of a 6th century CE synagogue in northern Negev, Israel, depicting garteled etrogs at the base of a Menorah

According to researchers, this gartel indicates when the bearing tree was infected by a certain virus or viroid, which decreases the albedo on the specific spot. These viroids have been around since the time of Bar Kokhba (circa 130 CE), as obtained from the fact that archaeologists have unearthed a mosaic depicting an etrog with a gartel.[3] Only the etrog is found to be susceptible to these viroids, proving again that the etrog is genetically pure, and has not changed much over the centuries.[4]

Colour and texture

A man in Bnei Brak examines a Yemenite etrog for flaws

The fruit is typically picked while still green, taking advantage of ethylene gas to ripen the fruit in a controlled manner. The same gas is also naturally released from apples, so some growers simply put the fruits in the same box as apples. The etrog used in the mitzvah of the four species must be largely unblemished, with the fewest black specks or other flaws.[5] Extra special care is needed to cut around the leaves and thorns that may scratch the fruit. It is also important to protect the fruit-bearing trees from any dust and carbon, which may get caught in the stomata of the fruit during growth, and may later appear as a black dot.

Pitam (Pitom)

An etrog with an intact pitam is considered especially valuable. A pitam is composed of a style (Hebrew: dad), and a stigma (Hebrew: shoshanta), which usually falls off during the growing process. However, varieties that shed off their pitam during growth are also kosher. When only the stigma breaks off, even post-harvest, it could still be considered kosher as long as part of the style has remained attached. If the whole pitam i.e. the stigma and style, are unnaturally broken off, all the way to the bottom, it is not kosher for the ritual use.

A Yanover Esrog without a Pitam

Many pitams are preserved today thanks to an auxin discovered by Dr. Eliezer E. Goldschmidt, formerly professor of horticulture at the Hebrew University. Working with the picloram hormone in a citrus orchard one day, he discovered, to his surprise, that some of the Valencia oranges found nearby had preserved beautiful, perfect pitams. Usually a citrus fruit, other than an etrog or citron hybrid like the bergamot, does not preserve its pitam. When it occasionally does, it should at least be dry, sunken and very fragile. In this case the pitams were all fresh and healthy just like those of the Moroccan or Greek citron varieties. Experimenting with the picloram in a laboratory, Goldschmidt eventually found the correct “dose” to achieve the desired effect: one droplet of the chemical in three million drops of water. This invention is highly appreciated by the Jewish community.[6]


In order for a citron to be kosher it must be pure, not grafted nor bred with any other species, therefore only a few traditional varieties are used. In addition, the plantations must be under strict rabbinical supervision.


Genetic research

The Citron varieties traditionally used as Etrog, are the Diamante Citron from Italy, the Greek Citron, the Balady Citron from Israel, the Moroccan and Yemenite Citrons.

3 etrog.JPG Citron varieties

Acidic-pulp varieties:

Non-acidic varieties:

Pulpless varieties:

Related Articles:
CitrusSuccadeHybridGraftingChimeraEtrogSukkothFour Species

A general DNA study was arranged by the world-renowned researcher of the etrog, Prof. Goldschmidt and colleagues, who positively testified 12 famous accessions of citron for purity and being genetically related. As they clarify in their joint publication, this is only referring to the genotypic information which could be changed by breeding for e.g. out cross pollination etc., not about grafting which is not suspected to change anything in the genes.[7]

The internal properties of an Etrog, represented by cross section of the Lefkowitz variety

The Fingered and Florentine Citrons although they are also Citron varieties or maybe hybrids, are not used for the ritual. The Corsican Citron is no longer in use, though it was once used and sacred.

Selection and cultivation

In addition to the above, there are many rabbinical indicators to identify pure etrogs out of possible hybrids. Those traditional specifications were preserved by continues selections accomplished by professional farmers.[8]

The most accepted indicators are as following: 1) a pure etrog has a thick rind, in contrast to its narrow pulp segments which are also almost dry, 2) the outer surface of an etrog fruit is ribbed and warted, and 3) the etrog peduncle is somewhat buried inward; a lemon or different citron hybrid is opposing one or all of the specifications.[9]

A later and not so widely accepted indicator is the orientation of the seed, which should be pointing vertically by an etrog, except if it was strained by its neighbors; by a lemon and hybrids they are positioned horizontally even when there is enough space.[10]

The etrog is typically grown from cuttings that are two to four years old, the tree begins to bear fruit when it is around four years old.[11] If the tree germinates from seeds, it will not fruit for about seven years, and there may be some genetic change to the tree or fruit in the event of seed propagation.[12]


A Moroccan etrog in a silver box

To protect the etrog during the holiday, it is traditionally wrapped in silky flax fibers and stored in a special box, often made from silver. After the holiday, a common Ashkenazi custom is to save it until Tu Bishvat and eat it in candied form or as succade, accompanied by prayers that the worshiper will merit a beautiful etrog next Sukkot.[13] Some families make jam or liqueur out of it,[14] or stick cloves in the skin for use as besamim at the havdalah ceremony after Shabbat. The Dancing Camel Brewery in Tel Aviv, Israel uses the rinds of etrogim in their annual 'Trog Wit Beer, usually available around the Holiday of Sukkot.[15]


External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The citron (κίτρον, κίτριον); fruit of a tree of the orange and lemon family. It is oblong in shape, and sometimes as much as six inches in length. The skin is thick, somewhat hard, fragrant, and covered with protuberances; the pulp is white and subacid. Modern naturalists assume the north of India to be its native home; but it passed to the countries of the Mediterranean from Media or Persia; hence the name of the tree, "Citrus medica," and of the fruit, "Malum medica," or "Malum Persica" (compare Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," ii. 3; μηλον Mηδικόν, Josephus, l.c. iii. 10, § 4: της IIερσέας). It is therefore possible that the Jews brought the tree with them from Babylonia to Palestine on their return from the Captivity.

The etrog is used with the "lulab" at the Feast of Booths, or Sukkot. Of the four species of plants enumerated in Lev 23:40 (R. V.), on which the carrying of the lulab is based, tradition takes "the fruit of the goodly tree" ( (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) , properly "the fruit of a fair or noble tree") to designate the citron. For the haggadic justification of this interpretation see Suk. 35a, and for a further discussion of the subject see Lulab. It is evident from Josephus and the Talmud that the custom of carrying the lulab and the etrog was well established in the time of the Maccabees. Josephus ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 5) relates that once, while Alexander Jannaæus was ministering at the altar on the Feast of Booths, the people pelted him with their citrons, reproaching him withbeing the son of a captive woman and therefore debarred from the priesthood. In Suk. 48b the episode of being pelted with etrogs is related of an unnamed Sadducee who wrongly poured out the waterlibation at the foot of the altar.

The etrog is also called "Adam's apple," or "paradise apple," and in Gen. R. xv. 7 among other fruits the etrog is suggested as having been the forbidden fruit of which Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden; "for it is said, 'the tree was good for food' (Gen 3:6). Which is the tree whose wood can be eaten as well as its fruit? It is the etrog."

To see an etrog in a dream is regarded as an assurance that one is "precious [ (missing hebrew text) ] before his Maker" (Ber. 57a). It is a wide-spread, popular belief that a pregnant woman who bites into an etrog will bear a male child.

In modern times, especially since the anti-Jewish demonstrations of 1891 at Corfu, a movement was inaugurated to boycott the etrog-growers of that island and to buy etrogim raised in the agricultural colonies of Palestine. Isaac Elhanan SPECTOR favored the Palestinian fruit ("Almanach Achiasaf," iv. 293), while others contended that the etrogim of Palestine, being raised on grafted trees, were prohibited ("Peri 'Eẓ. Hadar," ed. Solomon Marcus, Cracow, 1900).

The etrog was occasionally the object of special taxation. Empress Maria Theresa demanded from the Jews of the kingdom of Bohemia July 17, 1744, an annual tax of 40,OOO florins ($16,000) for the right of importing their etrogim, which tax was later on reduced to 12,000 florins ("Oest. Wochenschrift," 1901, p. 727). Some Galician Jews in 1797 offered to pay 150,000 florins for the privilege of levying a tax on etrogim, but Emperor Francis II., in 1800, refused to interfere with a religious practise ("Israel. Familienblatt," Hamburg, Oct. 10, 1901).

Bibliography: Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, pp. 347 et seq.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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