Physical Disqualifications of the Etrog

  • Rav Ezra Bick
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

Lecture 23: Physical disqualifications of the Etrog

Rav Ezra Bick

 

            The second half of the Mishna on p. 34b deals with physical disqualifications of the etrog. The list includes: if chazazit (lichen) covers most of the etrog, if the pitma (the pestlelike protrusion) of the etrog was removed, if the etrog was peeled, if it was split, if it was perforated, and if it was missing (chasser) any amount. In the continuation, the Mishna disqualifies a "kushi etrog" (an etrog that is abnormally dark-complexioned), and it records one dispute concerning an etrog that is as green as leek and another dispute regarding the size of an etrog. We shall follow the Gemara and deal with these disqualifications, each one separately.

I.                   CHazazit

It would seem that chazazit disqualifies an etrog because of hadar. According to the rule established by the Tosafot at the beginning of the chapter (29b, s.v. be'inan), the disqualifications deriving from the requirement of hadar apply all seven days of Sukkot. But the Tosafot in our passage (s.v. alta) bring the Yerushalmi, according to which chazazit disqualifies an etrog only on the first day. The Tosafot on p. 29b suggest that according to the Yerushalmi, chazazit disqualifies not because of hadar, but because of chasser (which disqualifies only on the first day, as is demonstrated by the Gemara on p. 36b: "R. Chanina would eat from it and [then] fulfill his obligation with it"). They add, however, that "this is not at all reasonable," i.e., this does not appear to be true, because no part of the etrog seems to be missing. The suggestion that an etrog covered with chazazit is disqualified because of chasser is based on the fact that the chazazit is composed of etrog, but the chazazit itself is not regarded as etrog – from which it follows that the etrog itself must be missing something.[[1]] The Tosafot's rejection is based on the assumption that if the chazazit itself is defined as hadar, there is no reason not to regard it as belonging to the cheftza of the etrog. As for the Yerushalmi, it might be suggested that even if an etrog containing chazazit falls into the general category of hadar, the chazazit itself does not have the appearance of an etrog, and thus it does not have the identity of an etrog. It turns out then that the part of the original etrog which had turned into chazazit is now missing and this disqualifies the etrog.

We have been assuming that the absence of hadar is a disqualification that relates to the etrog in its entirety, and not to the blemished phenomenon itself – in our case, the chazazit. In other words, we don't care how ugly the chazazit is, but rather whether its appearance on the etrog removes the etrog as a whole from the category of hadar. It is, therefore, possible, that even if the chazazit itself does not have the appearance of an etrog, and it itself is surely excluded from the category of hadar, the etrog as a whole might still be regarded as hadar. It seems that the Tosafot do not reject this position on account of this point, but because of the additional point, that chazazit does not have the identity of an etrog, and therefore the etrog is regarded as chasser.

The Gemara concludes that an etrog is disqualified if a majority of it is covered by chazazit, and so too even if it is not mostly covered by chazazit, but there is chazazit in two or three places. The second disqualification is called menumar (speckled). A third disqualification is chazazit on the etrog's chotem, which disqualifies even if only a minority of the etrog is blemished, and even if it is found in only one place. Rashi defines "chotem" as that part of the etrog that "tapers toward the upper point," i.e., the upper portion of the etrog. The reason for the disqualification, according to Rashi, is that the upper portion is "more visible to the eye, for it is to that portion that a person turns his eye." In other words, the absence of hadar in the chazazit does not disqualify in and of itself, but because of its impact on the general appearance of the etrog. For this reason, chazazit on the chotem has a greater impact than chazazit on the lower, more concealed portion of the etrog.

The Rambam defines chotem as dad, "nipple," apparently agreeing with Rashi. Regarding the case of a pitma that had been removed, however, the Rambam describes the case as one where "the dad (nipple) upon which sits its shoshana was removed." If we are talking about the upper third, tapering portion of the etrog, it is difficult to use the term "nital" (removed), which would seem to be appropriate only for some external element that is connected to the body of the etrog. And furthermore, shoshana seems to refer to the spherical knob on top of the stalk protruding from the etrog (as we shall see when we deal with the case of a pitma that had been removed). There is room, therefore, to think that when the Rambam refers to the dad, he is referring to the stalk connected to the top of the etrog upon which sits the shoshana (what we call today the "pitam").  If this is true, then it might be that chazazit on the chotem disqualifies the etrog because the pitam is the primary expression of the etrog's hadar (similar to meshulash in the hadas and the tiyomet of the lulav). A blemish found on the pitam cancels out the hadar not because of its direct impact on the etrog as a whole, as according to Rashi, but because there is a special law of hadar regarding the pitam.

 

II.                If the Pitma was removed

 

There are many different opinions about what is the pitma and what is the ukatz of an etrog. A helpful summary of all the opinions may be found in the Meiri. Some authorities identify the pitma with something other than what we today call the pitam. According to them, an etrog whose pitam has been removed is not disqualified. For example, the Ramban identifies the bukhna, which the Gemara identifies with the pitma, as the round portion under the ukatz. The ukatz itself is external to the etrog, but the round portion under it is part of the etrog itself. The absence of the shoshana at the top of the etrog does not disqualify at all. So too according to one opinion in the Tosafot, what we call the pitam the Gemara refers to as the ukatz, and the Gemara's pitma is the towering portion of the etrog itself below it. The Ra'avad implies that he only disqualifies an etrog if the entire pitam has been removed (the bukhna, i.e., the portion that "goes into" the etrog itself), but if only the shoshana has been removed, the etrog is fit.

 

According to all opinions, the disqualification is based on chasser – the disagreement is limited to the question which part is regarded as an integral part of the etrog, so that its absence renders it unfit for the mitzva, and which part is deemed external (e.g., what we call the ukatz, the absence of which all agree does not disqualify the etrog). Since the disqualification is based on chasser, and not hadar, we clearly understand why the Rishonim regard as fit an etrog that grew without a pitam (see Rema's ruling, Orach Chayyim 648:7). This is the basis for treating as fit most of the etrogim sold today in Eretz Israel, the pitam of which falls off naturally as the fruit ripens. Another practical ramification: if the disqualification is based on chasser, it should apply only on the first day. (We raised the possibility above that the Rambam maintains that chazazit that covers the pitma disqualifies the etrog, because the pitma is the primary hadar of the etrog. According to this, it is possible that an etrog whose pitma has been removed is disqualified because of a lack of hadar, and not because of chasser.

 

The Magen Avraham, however, rules that an etrog whose pitma has been removed is disqualified all seven days (649, no. 17). According to this, we must say that the disqualification is based on hadar. On the other hand, he does not disagree with the Rema's ruling that an etrog that grew without a pitam is fit for the mitzva. This would seem to be a contradiction, because if the disqualification is based on the absence of hadar, how can it be that two identical etrogim, one of which the pitma had been removed, and the other grew without a pitam – one is regarded as hadar, and the other not. See, however, the Magen Avraham, who writes that those etrogim that grow without a pitam are recognizable, because there is a hole instead of the pitam.  This does not mean that the small hole is regarded as hadar, but rather that in a case where there is no hole, the model of hadar is with a pitam, and if it is missing, the etrog is disqualified because of a lack of hadar. In other word, the definition of hadar depends on the model of etrog. If an etrog is supposed to have a pitam, then its absence is not only a matter of chasser, but also an impairment of the fruit's hadar. This is not the case regarding an etrog that grows naturally without a pitam. In such a case the absence of a pitam is not in any way a deficiency in its hadar.

 

III.             If the Etrog was peeled, split, or perforated

 

The Gemara distinguishes between an etrog all of which was peeled and one only part of which was peeled. Rashi explains that an etrog all of which was peeled is fit for the mitzva, whereas an etrog only part of which was peeled is disqualified because of its speckled appearance, i.e., because of a lack of hadar. The Tosafot bring the view of Rabbenu Chananel who maintains just the opposite that an etrog only part of which was peeled is fit, whereas one that was entirely peeled is disqualified, because it is like a terefa.

 

Rabbenu Chananel implies that an etrog can become disqualified because of terefa. We must understand what he means by this and what is the reason for the disqualification. Rabbi Y.B. Soloveitchik understands that terefa is a disqualification based on repulsion. The Rambam writes (Hilkhot Issurei Mizbe'ach 2:10) that terefa disqualifies a sacrifice because of "Offer it now to your governor; will he be pleased with you, or will he show you favor" (Malakhi 1:8). It is possible that just as something that is loathsome and repulsive is unfit for the sacrificial service, so too it is disqualified for the mitzva of etrog.

 

Another explanation may be proposed. In the case of an animal, a terefa is regarded as dead, because the animal's vitality depends on its integrated functioning as a single entity. A significant impairment of its overall functioning, even if in the meantime the animal is still breathing, removes it from the category of the living, because the entity as a whole is not in working order. It may be argued in similar fashion that a fruit is not merely edible matter, but rather it is regarded as an integrated entity. Just as the label of terefa removes an animal from the category of the living and turns it into a heap of dead flesh, so too the label of terefa removes the etrog from the category of fruit and turns it into a pile of organic matter. The mitzva of etrog requires a unit of fruit and not a certain quantity of organic matter.

 

In the case of a peeled etrog, Rabbenu Chananel maintains that even though the essence of a fruit (i.e., its edible portion) is its flesh, the fruit as a distinct entity requires a casing. For this reason, a small portion of the rind suffices for the etrog to be regarded as a unit of fruit, and only if it is entirely peeled is it regarded as removed from the category of fruit. (The Ra'avad rules that if the etrog is peeled in its majority, it is disqualified.)

 

Rashi implies that there is no disqualification of terefa with respect to etrog. It is merely on the superficial level that the Gemara draws a comparison between the disqualification of terefa in the case of an animal and the disqualification of hadar in the case of an etrog. The disqualification of a peeled etrog stems from a lack of hadar, and there is no additional disqualification of terefa.

 

As for a perforated etrog, Rashi explains that if the etrog is perforated and missing even a miniscule amount, it is unfit for the mitzva (because of chasser). If it is perforated, and the perforation penetrates all the way to the other side (mefulash), then even if nothing is missing from the etrog, it is unfit for the mitzva. And if it is perforated and the hole is in the size of an isar, then even if nothing is missing from the etrog, and the perforation does not reach the other side, it is unfit for the mitzva. It seems that according to Rashi, even a perforation that reaches the other side and a perforation in the size of an isar render the etrog unfit because of chasser. The novelty is that there are two types of chasser – a quantitative chasser, which renders the etrog unfit no matter how little is missing, and chasser in form, which requires a recognizable amount. A perforation that goes from one side of the etrog to the other and a hole the size of an isar are regarded as changes in the form of the etrog, and this is a second type of chasser.

 

According to the Ra'avad, a perforation only disqualifies the etrog if something is missing. If the perforation reaches the other side, the etrog is unfit even if only a miniscule amount is missing, but if the perforation does not reach the other side, the etrog is only unfit if is missing an amount in the size of an isar. As for the definition of mefulash, the Ra'avad is in doubt whether this means that the perforation penetrates the entire rind or that it reaches the other side of the etrog. There is also a third opinion, according to which mefulash means that the perforation reaches the seeds in the center of the etrog. According to this, we must say that the disqualification is always because of chasser, but what is missing must be significant. If the perforation is not mefulash, then it must be larger, but if it reaches the meat of the etrog – and even more so if it reaches the other side of the etrog – then what is missing is more significant, and the etrog is unfit even if the amount that is missing is miniscule.

 

According to the Tosafot, the perforation renders the etrog unfit if it reaches the place of the seeds, much like an animal is unfit if its lung is perforated. In other words, we are dealing with a disqualification of terefa. Just as we said that removal of the fruit's casing (peeling) removes the etrog from the category of fruit, so too a perforation that reaches the place where the seeds are found, which is supposed to be protected and concealed in the center of the fruit, removes the etrog from the category of fruit, because the organic unit has been impaired.

 

IV.              Kushi  - an Abnormally dark complexioned etrog

 

A kushi etrog is fit for the mitzva, but if it is dome or nidme - "similar" - to a kushi, it is disqualified for the mitzva. Rashi understands "similar to a kushi" as "counterfeit." The nature of the disqualification requires further examination.

 

We find a disqualification of nidme with respect to sacrifices, i.e., a goat that is similar to a cow. According to Rambam, such an animal is disqualified, because it is viewed as suffering from a mum (a physical blemish) – (Hilkhot Issurei Mizbe'ach 3:5). The disqualification of mum in the case of an etrog would seem to be based on a lack of hadar. This is a new type of hadar, for a kushi and a dome to a kushi are identical in appearance. But a change from the way it is supposed to look naturally renders the etrog unfit because of hadar. This is regarded as a mum in the case of a sacrifice and as a lack of hadar in the case of an etrog. Just as in the case of an animal, it is not an absolute blemish, but only a blemish in comparison to what it is supposed to be, so too regarding the hadar of an etrog.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 





[1] We must still account for the fact that chazazit renders the etrog unfit only if it covers the majority of the fruit, but not if it just covers a small portion of it. It may be suggested that if the chazazit covers only a small section, it is nullified by the rest of the etrog and no longer regarded as a foreign element. But if it covers the majority of the etrog, it enjoys sufficient importance to be regarded as a separate entity, and thus a foreign element that is not part of the etrog.