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==General laws==
# It is important to buy an etrog that has a reliable hechsher in order to be sure that is not grafted. <ref>The Rama (Responsa 226) writes that an etrog that is the product of an etrog tree grafted with a lemon tree is invalid because it no longer qualifies as an etrog. The Levush (649:4) writes likewise but for a different reason. He asserts that a grafted etrog is invalid since it was created in violation of kilayim (grafting trees of different species) even if a non-Jew did it. The Shevut Yaakov (1:36) disagrees with the Levush’s reasoning, since we hold that non-Jews are not obligated in the laws of kilayim. The Shevut Yaakov quotes a story in which the Shach permitted making a bracha upon a grafted etrog, but he adds that the Shach later retracted. In sum, almost all poskim consider a grafted etrog to be invalid, including the Magen Avraham (648:23), Taz (648:3), and Chazon Ovadia (p. 223). Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky (“The Laws of the Daled Minim,” min. 3) advised getting an etrog with a reliable hechsher in order to make sure that it is not grafted. </ref>
# An etrog must be at least the size of an egg. <ref> See Mishna (Sukkah 34b), Rambam (7:8), and Shulchan Aruch (648:22). </ref>
# A hole of any size invalidates the etrog. Many poskim hold that it is not an issue if only a piece of the outermost peel is removed, while some say that it is acceptable even if a piece of the thin yellow peel is removed. <ref> The Mishna (34b), according to Rashi, states that an etrog that is punctured and lacking even a little bit is invalid. If, however, it is punctured but not lacking, it remains valid. The Gemara (36a) limits the leniency of the Mishna to where the hole does not penetrate all the way through the etrog and the hole is not the size of an issar coin. The Rosh (3:18) agrees with Rashi. Rabbeinu Chananeil, though, maintains that the Gemara’s limitation was regarding the stringency of the Mishna. Thus, in his view, the Gemara means that an etrog that is punctured and lacking is invalid only if the hole goes all the way through or is at least the size of an issar coin.
* The Rambam (8:7, as understood by the Beit Yosef 648:2) explains the Mishna as meaning if an etrog is punctured or lacking it is invalid, unlike Rashi. For all practical purposes, though, the Rambam agrees with Rashi, because he explains the Gemara as referring to the first case, like Rabbeinu Chananeil, thus limiting the stringency of the Mishna to where the hole goes all the way through or is the size of an issar coin. Though the Rif (17b) is not clear, the Beit Yosef suggests that he agrees with the Rambam.
* The Gemara (35b), according to the explanation of the Rabbeinu Chananeil and Rosh (3:17), establishes that an etrog that is peeled in its majority is invalid, while an etrog that has only a minority peeled is valid. The Ran (17a s.v. Niklaf) explains that the Gemara is discussing a case where the outermost peel (which is thin like frost) is removed. If, however, the thin yellow peel is removed, the etrog would be invalid, as it is an etrog that is lacking. The Rambam (8:7, as understood by the Bach) agrees that it is valid only if none of the thin yellow peel was removed. The Rashba (Responsa 1:58), however, says that it is invalid only if part of the thick white section is removed (see the Machon Yerushalayim edition of the Tur 648 note 13).
* The Bach concludes that the view of the Ran should be normative. Shaar Hatziyun (648:27) elaborates upon the Bach (see also Beiur Halacha 645:2). The Chazon Ish (147:1), however, claims that there never was a dispute and everyone really subscribes to the view of the Rashba. See Mishna Brurah (648:26), who discusses the status of an etrog if the area where the outermost peel was removed became discolored.
* The Terumat Hadeshen (Responsa 99) writes that if a hole was made while the etrog was growing but the flesh and peel subsequently grew over it, it is valid. Rama (648:2) agrees. </ref>
 
# If the pitom falls off or the stem on the bottom of the etrog is completely removed, the etrog is invalid. <ref> The Mishna (34b) establishes that if the pitom fell off an etrog, the etrog is invalid, but if the oketz fell off, it is valid. The Gemara (35b) explains that the pitom is the rod-like protrusion (“buchanto”). Rashi (s.v. Tani) cites a dispute between his teachers about how to explain what the pitom and oketz are. Rabbeinu Yaakov explained pitom as the protrusion on top of the etrog and the oketz as the thick stem on the bottom. Rabbeinu Yitzchak, however, explained that oketz refers to the outer part of the thick stem on the bottom, while pitom refers to the inner part of that stem, meaning that the etrog would be invalid only if the stem on the bottom is totally removed, even the part that penetrates the etrog. Rashi sides with Rabbeinu Yaakov.
* The Rabbeinu Chananeil (36a) explains that the Gemara was not explaining the Mishna at all but rather adding another potential disqualification. According to his view, the pitom is on the top of the etrog and “buchanto” is on bottom. He adds that the oketz is the outer part of the stem on bottom, and if that is removed, the etrog remains valid. The Rif (17b) and Rambam (8:7) agree. The Rosh (3:16) writes that the minhag was to follow Rabbeinu Chananeil. Shulchan Aruch (648:7-8) concurs. Mishna Brurah (648:31) writes that if the bud on top of the pitom falls off, one should avoid using the etrog unless it is the nicest one available.
* The Rosh adds that if the etrog grew without a pitom in the first place, it is valid. Rama (648:7) codifies this. Mishna Brurah (648:32) explains that the reason an etrog without a pitom is invalid is either because its lacking or is not “haddar.” Accordingly, if an etrog grew that way initially, it is valid. </ref>
 
# Some poskim invalidate an etrog that has black dots found on its chotam, while others deem it valid. <ref>The Mishna (34b) explains that an etrog upon which there is a protruding growth (“chazazit”) that covers the majority of the etrog is invalid. The Gemara (35b) adds that if the growth is found in two or three separate places, it invalidates the etrog, since it appears “spotted.” Additionally, the Gemara states, if the growth is found on the chotam, it invalidates the etrog regardless of its size. The Rosh (3:20) writes that a discoloration of white or black has the same status as a growth. Therefore, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (648:12) write that a discoloration of any size on the chotam would invalidate the etrog.
* What is the chotam? Rashi (35b s.v. Ubechotmo) explains that the line at which the etrog begins to slope inwards is the chotam. See Halachos of the Four Minim (p. 10) for a diagram. The Rosh explains that the Rif holds that the chotam is the entire slope up to its pitom. The Beit Yosef (648:12) writes that the minhag was to be strict for both Rashi and the Rif. The Beiur Halacha (648 s.v. Mimakom) explains that the Rif, and by implication Shulchan Aruch, agree that the pitom itself is included in the chotam.
* The Pituchei Arbaat HaMinim (p. 266-7) discusses black dots that are caused by bug sprays that farmers use. He suggests two reasons to be lenient. First, he argues (based on the Terumat Hadeshen responsa 99) that since these black dots are part of the normal appearance of the etrog, they do not present a problem. Furthermore, the black dots are external to the etrog. Nonetheless, he concludes that one should be strict unless the dot can be removed. Similarly, Rav Dovid Miller (“Hilchot Arba Minim”) and Halachos of the Four Species (p. 22) say that a black dot on the upper part of the etrog invalidates it.
* Rabbi Zvi Sobolovsky (ibid. min 4-5), however, explained that most of the etrogim we have do not have any issue with discoloration; the little black dots are just specks of dirt. Similarly, Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg (“A Practical Guide to Purchasing Daled Minim,” min. 32-3) quotes the Chaim Ubracha (p. 33 note 87), who says that black dots invalidate the etrog only if they develop because of rotting, which is not usually the case. Mishna Brurah (648:46) writes that a discoloration disqualifies an etrog only if it is noticeable upon a normal glance without staring at it carefully. </ref>
 
# An etrog that is completely green is invalid. If, however, if it started to become yellow, it is valid. <ref> The Mishna (34b) cites Rabbi Yehuda’s view that an etrog that is as green as grass is invalid. The Rosh (3:21) cites Tosfot’s assertion that an etrog that is green but will turn yellow over time is valid, since it must be a complete fruit in order for it to turn yellow. Shulchan Aruch (648:21) codifies this view. Mishna Brurah (648:65) writes that the Achronim decided that one should not rely on the fact that the etrog might potentially turn yellow later on unless it has begun to start doing so. Chazon Ovadia (p. 256) agrees. Rabbi Hershel Schachter (“The Halachos of the Daled Minim,” min. 33-5) cited the Mishkenot Yaakov’s opinion that the etrog is invalid even if it started to yellow.</ref>
 
# See note for a list of other ideal qualities. Besides for the qualities that Chazal specified, the niceness of an etrog includes its subjective beauty. <ref> Bumpy: Rama (Responsa 126) writes that the differences between a grafted etrog and a real etrog include: 1)A real one is bumpy, while grafted ones are smooth. 2)A real one has an indented oketz, while grafted ones has an oketz that protrudes. 3)A real one has a thick peel with very little juice, while grafted ones have a thin peel and a lot of juice. The Tiferet Yisrael (Mishnayot Sukka 3:6) says that a person ideally should look for an etrog that is very bumpy and has an indented oketz. Nitei Gavriel (p. 140) as well as Kashrut Arbaat Haminim (p. 8) codify this view.
* Ball-like: The Gemara (36a) says that an etrog that is round like a ball is invalid. This is quoted by Tur and Shulchan Aruch (648:18). Mishna Brurah (648:59) explains that a round etrog is invalid since it is not a normal shape of an etrog. Beiur Halacha (648:18) elaborates that it is not necessary to be stringent for the opinion of Tosfot that a cylindrical etrog is invalid, since most authorities disagree. Kaf Hachaim (648:113), however, says that ideally, one should accommodate this view of Tosfot.
* Tower-like: Tiferet Yisrael (Yachin Sukkah 3:6) writes that ideally, the etrog should be like a tower, meaning thick at the bottom and thin on top. Nitei Gavriel (p. 140) and Arbaat Haminim Lamedharim (p. 252) agree.
* Symmetrical: Tiferet Yisrael (ibid.) writes that ideally, the pitom should be lined up with the oketz. Kashrut Arbaat Haminim (p. 8) agrees. Arbaat Haminim Lamehadrin (p. 177) cites Rav Nissim Karelitz, who says that this criterion is met if the pitom and oketz are approximately lined up.
* Aesthetic beauty: Chazon Ovadia (p. 278) quotes the Maamar Mordechai, who asserts that besides for the properties that Chazal specified, the beauty of an etrog depends on the subjective view of the individual. Accordingly, Rabbi Mordechai Willig (quoted by Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg ibid. min. 44-6) would ask his wife to pick the nicest-looking etrog from amongst the valid etrogim.</ref>
==Grafted Etrog==
# A grafted Etrog is pasul whether it was grafted with lemon, promerance, or any other fruit. <Ref>The overwhelming consensus of Achronim hold that a grafted Etrog is unfit all days of [[Sukkot]] and one may not make a Bracha on it. These Achronim include Magen Avraham 648:23, Taz 648:3, S”A HaRav 648:31, Mishna Brurah 648:65, Chazon Ovadyah [[Sukkot]] (pg 223).</ref>

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