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Tuesday, 25 September 2018
The etrog and the horse

The etrog, especially, has been the focus of much attention and care. It was difficult to obtain in European Jewish communities from the Middle Ages almost up to modern times. Therefore, it was considered very precious. Sometimes entire communities had to share one etrog. Incredible care is taken in procuring an etrog and lulav without flaws. Here in Israel, prior to Sukkot, men with magnifying glasses can be seen examining the tips of the lulav for any defect or damage. The very scrupulous spend large sums of money to buy only the most perfect. With the tremendous emphasis placed on meticulous observance of the smallest detail, it is easy to lose sight of weightier matters of the Torah such as justice and the love of God (Luke 11:42). This was certainly not lost on the Rabbis as the following story relates:

In the latter years of the eighteenth century, Rabbi Mordechai of Neschiz was the leader of the Zlotzover Chassidim. It had been his custom to save money throughout the year, so that just prior to Sukkot he could purchase a magnificent etrog. Once during the ten "Days of Awe" between rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he traveled to another city in order to buy an etrog. Upon entering the town he came across a coachman, who stood weeping over the body of his fallen horse. Mordechai didn't waste any time deliberating on the matter. He gave the coachman the money which he had saved for buying the etrog, in order that he might buy another horse. (This gives some idea of how expensive an etrog was.) Cheerfully he returned home where he was asked about the etrog. His response was amazing:

"In all the world our fellow Jews may recite the blessing over the etrog, but to me only has the privilege been granted to recite it over a horse."

This is an excerpt from an Israel's Restoration article by Moshe Morrison and you can read his Sukkot Book too!

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