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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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An Etrog Tree Doesn’t Grow in Brooklyn

The renown Torah scholar, the Gaon of Vilna, emphasized that only two mitzvot are performed with all of one’s body – the mitzvah of dwelling in the succah and the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.
The four species.

The four species.

If it did it would die. Just the way the Diaspora is destined to die. The etrog tree doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. The climate isn’t right for it. It’s the same with the lulav, hadasim, and aravot.* The four species which we are commanded to take for ourselves on the Festival of Sukkot are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, just as the Torah is indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish People are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael.  We belong in Eretz Yisrael. All of the holidays are intrinsically connected to Eretz Yisrael. The Torah was designed and fashioned by the Almighty to be observed in Eretz Yisrael.

How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you hear hammers pounding away the week before the Sukkot holiday and see sukkah booths wherever you look!

I remember living in New York City and walking the length and width of the city on the holiday of Sukkot and not seeing even one sukkah on the street. Finally I found a mini sukkah, the size of a telephone booth, in the back alley of a kosher dairy restaurant, adjacent to the foul-smelling bathroom.

This past week in Israel, in whatever direction you looked, chances are you saw a succah booth. On front lawns, in driveways, in parking lots, on restaurant sidewalks, on the terraces of buildings, and on rooftops. In the Diaspora, the opposite is true. Unless you happen to be in one of the 5 or 6 Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods scattered around the globe, chances are you won’t see a succah booth at all. Take a walk from one end of Los Angeles to the other and there won’t be a succah in sight. In Paris and London, you would never know that there is a Jewish Festival about to begin. Diaspora succahs, if they exist, are hidden away on back lawns, or in back alleyways, so that the goyim won’t shoot flaming arrows at them and ignite them in a blaze of smoke. In the villas of wealthy Jews, you might discover a succah inside the house under a pull-back roof, so that the neighbors don’t have to know that Orthodox Jews live inside. That’s the sad state of affairs when you are a secret Jew living amongst the goyim.

Yes, we have many problems in Israel, but we don’t have to hide our succot in the back of our homes. We can proudly construct them in our driveways and front lawns without worrying about vandals or burglars or gentile police. In the Diaspora, a front lawn succah sticks out like the gaudy statues that rich, Beverly-Hills Arabs like to put on their lawns. In Israel, no one takes a second look. Succahs are natural in Israel. They are a part of the landscape. People can dine in them in peace, and sleep comfortably in them all night without the slightest disturbance.

The renown Torah scholar, the Gaon of Vilna, emphasized that only two mitzvot are performed with all of one’s body – the mitzvah of dwelling in the succah and the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.

How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you don’t have to be embarrassed or afraid to sit in your sukkah out on the street! Where apartment buildings are built with terraces especially designed for the Sukkot holiday! Where the Kotel and the place of the Temple are a short walk or car ride away! Where there are sukkah booths outside of every restaurant! Where Sukkot is a national holiday with school vacation, and not some weird, mumbo-jumbo practice of the Jews.

How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you can be proud to be a Jew!

*Editor’s Note: The author’s point is metaphorical and is not intended to mean that factually none of the four minim (species) grow in Brooklyn or outside of Israel.

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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3 Responses to “An Etrog Tree Doesn’t Grow in Brooklyn”

  1. Emet Sheva says:

    Actually, from what I know Etrog tree does not grow in Israel either (well there are farmers here and there that do grow it but its VERY water-intensive so they are few). We get most of our Etrog from Egypt….. I wonder how Morsi regime lives with itself profiting from us…. 😀 (Hag Sukkot Sameach!)

  2. Stephen Leavitt says:

    We used to get our Lulavim from Egypt, but they put an end to that. Most Lulavs this year were grown in Israel. They're a superior variety too.

    Etrogim come from a number of sources, that includes Israel and I think Italy. In the US their is a farmer in California, and a few other startups, I think in Texaas and Arizona.

  3. Liad Bar-el says:

    “The author’s point is metaphorical and is not intended to mean that factually none of the four minim (species) grow in Brooklyn or outside of Israel.”.

    My point is not metaphorical. There is no Kotel in Brooklyn nor is there any other place in this world that HaShem has commanded us to be at this time of year other than Israel (Yirushalayim). “Three times a year shall all your males appear before Hashem in the place that He shall select, on the Festival of Matzot, on the Festival of Shavuot, and on the Festival of Sukkot; do not appear before HaShem empty-handed.” (Deut 16:16).

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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