Popular Articles

Persian invaders brought the tree-fruit from China to the Holy Land in the 6th century BCE

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

“There is nothing quite like the experience of picking out an etrog for the holiday of Sukkot.” (Photo: reformjudaism.org)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

In the peak of the warm summer, it is unlikely that people are thinking about the chagim, however, that was the time that a very interesting book finally reached me, which I had been trying to get to review since it was published.

“Every year before the holiday of Sukkot, Jews all around the world purchase an etrog—a lemon-like fruit—to participate in the holiday ritual. In this 2018 book, I track the etrog from its evolutionary home in Yunnan, China, to the lands of India, Iran, and finally Israel, where it became integral to the Jewish celebration of Sukkot during the Second Temple period.”

The author, Dr. Rabbi David Moster, continued, “I explain what Sukkot was like before and after the arrival of the etrog, and why the etrog’s identification as the ‘choice tree-fruit’ of Leviticus 23:40 was by no means predetermined. I also demonstrate that once the fruit became associated with the holiday of Sukkot, it began to appear everywhere in Jewish art during the Roman and Byzantine periods, and eventually became a symbol for all the fruits of the land, and perhaps even the Jewish people as a whole.”

He also stated:

“There is nothing quite like the experience of picking out an etrog for the holiday of Sukkot.”

“When it comes to Leviticus 23:40, every way of interpreting is a way of not interpreting too.”

“The lulav and etrog were ethnic markers that served to distinguish Jews and Samaritans from one another. In this sense, the lulav and etrog—not the menorah, shofar, firepan or ark—belonged to the Jews alone.” 

These are a few of the comments of Dr. Rabbi Moster–founder and director of the Institute of Biblical Culture, an online community of learners dedicated to studying the Bible and its world from Jewish, Christian, and Academic perspectives. 

For 10 years, he lived in New York City, where he received a B.A., M.A., M.S., and Rabbinical Degree from Yeshiva University, and an M.A. from New York University. He spent two years in Israel, and he received his PhD in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.

He lives in Yonkers, New York with his wife, a psychiatrist, and  two children.

What Leviticus 23:39-40 says is: “Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.

And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.”

The question is—is this the etrog? 

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

This highly documented, fascinating book is “the culmination of years of ritualistic, agricultural, and grammatical/historical information explaining how the etrog became integral to the practice of Judaism.”

Chapters 1 to 4 begin with an abstract and end with a bibliography.  

For example, the etrog was referred to by Josephus in the first century CE in his descriptions of Sukkot. …“after it was introduced to the land of Israel in the fourth to third centuries BCE, the etrog quickly became entrenched in the agricultural, political, and religious cultures of the Jewish people.” 

Halacha also took the phrase peri’es hadar to mean the etrog and no other fruit and interpreted this phrase to mean “the beautiful tree-fruit,” that is, the etrog alone.

According to Nigel Chaffey (September 6, 2018) in Botany One, of all the fruits in Israel, the etrog gets a special status because of the “etrog’s ‘different-ness’. Unknown in Israel, until introduced there by the Persian invaders in the 6th century BCE, when it was associated with the powerful ruling class, it has the cachet of being rare, privileged and mysterious. Furthermore, etrog was one of the very few symbols not ‘appropriated’ by other religious groups such as the Samaritans: Etrog therefore is, and remains, uniquely Jewish. 

The cover of Etrog, How A Chinese Fruit Became A Jewish Symbol (Photo: Supplied)

Increasingly, during the Byzantine and Roman Period (70 – 636/7 CE), etrog became specifically associated with the feast of Sukkot as the choicest of choice tree-fruits. This represents a remarkable elevation for – and highly significant cultural ‘adoption’ of – a botanical that began its journey 6500 km away as a rather humble and unremarkable fruit, amongst many other – and arguably more remarkable – citrus fruits, in China several centuries earlier.”

Mr. Chaffey concludes, “Etrog is in part Moster’s detailed interpretation of the meaning of three words of Hebrew text that appear in Leviticus. Etrog is also the story of how a particular botanical entity has become intimately associated with the religion of Judaism over the course of hundreds of years. It’s therefore an example par excellence of what plants-and-people scholarship is all about. Thank you, Rabbi Moster!”

Not only is this a wonderful, detailed journey through the history of the etrog, but readers will enjoy the 80 pictures. This would make a wonderful gift book to anyone who purchases an etrog each year.

Etrog, How A Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol by David Z. Moster, Palgrave Macmillan, 142 pp. 

Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, food writer and author (Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel), nine cookbooks (including What’s Cooking at Hadassah College.) She lived in Israel from 1970-1980; she and her late husband, Barry, came to live in Jerusalem in 2008, where she works as a foreign correspondent for North American Jewish publications, lectures to senior citizen residences, walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market. She has been book reviewing for 40 years. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Previous
Next