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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Etrog’

New York, High-End Dealers Cater To Jews Seeking The Perfect Etrog

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Naftali Berger’s quest for perfection ends in victory when the 24-year-old kollel student enters Tsvi Dahan’s trailer on Wallabout Street in the Haredi Orthodox Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“Find something wrong with it — find it!” a glowing Berger exclaims Monday as he holds his treasure: a bumpy, lemon-like fruit.

In open-air markets and on tables unfolded on sidewalks in Jewish communities throughout the world, many Jews preparing for Sukkot look for lovely etrogim, the fruit that constitutes the centerpiece of the biblically mandated four species to be blessed during the weeklong holiday.

Many celebrants will take the basic etrogim commonly sold by synagogues, Jewish schools and shops for about $50 for a set that also includes a lulav, myrtle and willow.

Then there are men like Berger, who think nothing of dropping hundreds of dollars on an especially beautiful etrog, which they believe enhances their fulfillment of the mitzvah.

No sooner does Yom Kippur end than such customers seek out Dahan, 38, a resident of Jaffa who owns three hotels in Tel Aviv but has trekked to New York City the past 15 autumns to hawk his high-end etrogim. They are rippled and slightly smooth, hefty and slim, shiny in hue and subdued — in etrog selection, as in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Above all, though, Dahan’s etrogim are symmetrical and close to blemish-free — and are pure, ungrafted.

All come from the 200 trees on a half-acre plot of land Dahan leases in Dumdir, a village in southern Morocco, his parents’ homeland. Dahan visits four times a year to monitor their growth and consult with his one full-time employee.

His last visit there preceded Rosh Hashanah, when Dahan selected the crop’s 2,000 best. In a Moroccan hotel room, he categorized the 200 most pristine specimens promising top dollar, examining each for texture, shape and, above all, the slightest of flaws.

He’s not alone catering to the market in Williamsburg, where the primarily Hasidic community is dominated by the Satmar sect, with smaller pockets of Bobov and Vizhnitz. In the weeks before Sukkot, several other storefronts and trailers pop up in the neighborhood, with dealers and growers offering premium etrogim from Israel and Italy, along with Morocco.

Some of the merchants, like Dahan, also market to the haredi Orthodox community in Monsey, a town northwest of New York City.

In the trailer, Berger slides his eyeglasses down near the tip of his nose, the better to inspect the etrog he’s grasping. He takes a cotton swab from a box and dabs at the surface surrounding the pitom, as the stem is known, trying to discern if the pinhead-sized speck he spots is merely a wayward dirt particle or a blemish.

Ten minutes into the inspection, Berger phones his rabbi, detailing his observations in Yiddish. He hangs up, calls again, then returns the etrog to a foam-lined box that he sets aside on a table.

“I’m going to have a cup of coffee and think about it,” Berger says.

Ten minutes later, he returns, seizing another etrog and examining it.

This one is smaller than many others displayed, and the pitom is angled slightly, but Berger is smitten.

“It’s clean — perfectly clean. For me, that’s the most important,” Berger pronounces of the $200 etrog that he calls “a bargain.”

He’ll also take the one he’d reserved earlier — and two more besides for his brothers. He leaves a $200 deposit for the four etrogim, which he takes away for his brothers to examine.

Six blocks down Lee Street, Dahan sits in a vacant storefront, his other temporary outpost in Williamsburg. Two tables host four reading lamps to help customers scrutinize the merchandise. A man who inspects for 45 minutes leaves without purchasing.

Etrog Shopping

Monday, October 6th, 2014

A Jewish man examines a citron, known as an Etrog, for imperfections, preparing to make his purchase in a ‘four-species’ market in Jerusalem on October 5, 2014.

The Etrog is one of the four species used during rituals in the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Sukkot commemorates the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the desert and a decorated hut or Sukkah is built outside religious households and lived in for 7 days (8 days if you’re stuck in the Diaspora).

Tax Authorities Raid Lulav and Etrog Street Vendors

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Israeli tax official surprised hundreds of Lulav and Etrog vendors around the country on Monday when they began a secret operation to determine if the sellers were reporting their sales, providing receipts, and paying taxes on revenues from their booths.

Vendors report that they don’t remember a raid like this ever happening before.

Lulav and Etrog sales are primarily a cash business, and they are sold by vendors, often teenagers, who set up tables and booths on streets throughout Israel before the Sukkot holiday. The business itself is more complicated with a group importers and distribution centers providing the majority of the temporary street vendors with their products.

Sukkot’s Lulav and Etrog sales is a multi-millions dollar industry.

TSA and Customs Issue Etrog Travel Advisories

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. authorities released travel guidelines for Sukkot.

“TSA’s screening procedures do not prohibit the carrying of the four plants used during Sukkot – a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron – in airports, through or security checkpoints, or on airplanes,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement, noting the dates of this year’s Sukkot holiday, from Sept. 18-25.

The TSA notice said, however, that all passengers undergo security screening at checkpoints.

In a separate statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection also noted that the four species were allowed entry, but noted a number of restrictions subject to inspection.

“Travelers will be asked to open the container with the ethrog and unwrap it,” its advisory stated. “The agriculture specialist will inspect the ethrog. If either insect stings or pests are found, the ethrog will be prohibited from entering the United States. If neither is found, the traveler will be allowed to rewrap and re-box the ethrog for entry into the United States.”

Twigs of willow from Europe are banned, it continued, and any sign of pests or disease will mean confiscation of the product.
In a press statement noting the allowances, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, also urged observant Jews to cooperate with airline staff and authorities, for instance when praying aboard aircraft.

“Particularly, one should let flight attendants know if they will be davening in flight BEFORE they begin, and understand the implications, as well as potential prosecution, for ignoring requests to sit down when requested, etc.,” said Shemtov, who consulted with Rabbi Abba Cohen, the director of the Washington office for Agudath Israel of America, in setting out the guidelines. “For example, flight attendants do not usually understand ‘nu,’ ‘uh,’ and hand signals, etc. especially when you are already in tallis and tefillin.”

Shemtov told JTA that religious Jews should appreciate the efforts of travel authorities to facilitate their travel.

“We in the Jewish community are fortunate to live with an unprecedented level of personal liberty,” he said. “I hope everyone will appreciate that cooperation with authorities that are so sympathetic to our traditions is the least we can do in return.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/u-s-authorities-issue-sukkot-and-etrog-advisories/2013/09/15/

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