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4 minim Materialism segula

What if You Never Get to Use Your Own Esrog?

Many people spend a great deal of time and money each year in their search for the perfect esrog. Sure, we’re supposed to seek hiddurim in our four minim, but is it so obvious what those hiddurim actually are?

For years I’ve wondered if there’s any benefit in all the effort for those of us who can’t necessarily tell the difference between esrogim costing $100 and $300. (And after speaking with many people in the industry, I’m not completely convinced there actually are any differences.) Does just spending the money improve the quality of the mitzva?

But I was recently thinking about this mishna in the fourth perek of Succah:

מצות לולב כיצד כל העם מוליכין את לולביהן להר הבית והחזנין מקבלין מידם וסודרין אותן על גג האיצטווה והזקנים מניחין את שלהם בלשכה ומלמדין אותן לומר כל מי שהגיע לולבי בידו הרי הוא לו במתנה ולמוחרת היו משכימין ובאים והחזנין מזרקין לפניהם

How was the mitzva of lulav performed (in the mikdash when the first day of yom tov fell on Shabbos)? Everyone would take their lulavim to the Temple Mount (before Shabbos) which the officials would take from their hands and arrange along the bleachers…(the officials) would teach everyone to say ‘I present my lulav as a gift to whoever receives it.’ The next morning, they would all come early and the officials would (randomly) throw (lulavim) before them.

While, as the mishna later makes clear, this procedure didn’t continue for long, it was the way Chazal would have preferred we do this mitzva (at least when the first day of yom tov fell on Shabbos, when carrying our lulavim to the mikdash was impossible).

Which means that we were expected to go to the trouble of purchasing and preparing our four minim with the full knowledge that we wouldn’t ever get to use them! After all, they would end up wherever the officials threw them that first morning.

Now, if you knew that you’d never get to use it yourself, would you spend as much money and energy getting it? For myself, at least, I’m not sure how I would answer that question.

One reply on “What if You Never Get to Use Your Own Esrog?”

Very interesting! There’s a story of Rabbi Nochum Partovitz, which I heard from his son-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Mendel Brodsky. One year, Rabbi Partovitz invited his talmidim to see his esrog. It was kasher, of course, but it had many marks on it and wasn’t, by any stretch, what’s though of these days as “mehudar.” He told the talmidim the esrog was “reyn” (Yiddish for “clean”). The talmidim politely asked how the Rosh Yeshiva could say that such an esrog was reyn. He answered that it was reyn from bitul Torah. I’m sure the larger conversation about what to invest in esrogim has more to it (as evidenced by the thoughtful piece above), but it was certainly a very thought-provoking nekudah!

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