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Be Fruitful! The Etrog in Jewish Art, Culture, and History

Be Fruitful! The Etrog in Jewish Art, Culture, and History

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The etrog is a curious fruit. The Bible (Leviticus 23:30) commands its readers: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day beautiful tree-fruit (peri etz hadar), palm fronds, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Native to the Far East and adapted to the culture of the eastern Mediterranean, the rituals of the etrog are among the very few that are dependent upon a particular environment for growth that Jews have maintained in their vast dispersal from the origins of their law, heritage, and collective existence in the Land of Israel. In their wanderings across the globe, the etrog has remained part of Jews’ practices, an indispensable part of the annual rhythms of the Jewish harvest festival, Sukkot, the Feast of Booths.

This collection of essays by leading scholars of Jewish studies explores the long and engaging story of the etrog from Biblical times to the present,  with explorations from medieval and early modern Europe, the Ottoman lands, the United States, and Israel. Together they tell a tale of home-away-from-home, of wandering and belonging, of tradition and adaptation. The etrog’s story is one of environment, climate, and agriculture; of religious law and change; of commerce and cooperation; of borders and crossings; of fine art; of experimentation and innovation in Jewish art, culture, and history.