One of the quintessential symbols of the holiday of Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) is the Etrog (citrus fruit). Often yellow or greenish in color, it is primarily imported from Israel, Italy, Greece, Morocco, or Yemen.
The holiday of Sukkot falls out after Yom Kippur for good reason. After reaching levels of angelic purity we return to a holiday of physicality indicating that out true mortality exists in the physical and that is the preferred way of serving G-d.
On Sukkot we hold the four species, the Etorg, Lulav (palm branch), Haddasim (myrtles branches) and Aravot (willow branches), together.
By examining the two explanations of what the Etrog, Lulav, Haddasim and Aravot represent we can understand why they must be held together.
Two Explanations for What the Etrog Represents
One explanation is that the Etrog’s smell and good taste represents the righteous, the Lulav which has a good taste but no smell represents a person with knowledge but with no good deeds, the myrtle which has a good taste but no smell is like a person with no knowledge but good character traits and the willow has no taste and no smell symbolic of those with no knowledge and poor character traits.
So why are such diverse elements held together in the hand? The answer is that the Divine is seeking His whole nation, whatever their stature to be bound together and serve Him as one. The righteous, symbolized by the majestic Etrog, have the great task of uniting, teaching and leading those with lesser knowledge and character. No Jew must be left behind in the service of G-d and therefore this unification is symbolized through holding these four species together.
The second explanation of what the four species represent is based on their shape. The Etrog is the shape of the heart and represents the emotions of man. The Lulav resembles the spine of a man, symbolizing uprightness, the myrtle corresponds to the eyes, enlightenment, and the willow represents the lips, symbolic of prayer. The message is that the body must be unified in thought and action to serve the Divine. Namely, one must be straight and unbending in his service of G-d but must utilize his heart to reach an emotional nirvana which can only be attained though using his eyes and mouth as spiritual vehicles.
Two Sweet Recipes From the Etrog
It’s no coincidence then that out of the Etrog, whether it represents the righteous which must bring all other Jews back or the heart that pursues G-d with feeling and emotion, sprouts sweet recipes The most popular ones are for Etrog jam and Etrog Shnapps (a unique alcoholic beverage). The following are the recipes for both.
1 Etrog (citrus)
Rinse the Etrog and orange. Cut them lengthwise and slice them very thinly. Remove the seeds. Soak the fruit overnight. Change the water (and make sure the fruit is fully covered). Place it in a pot and bring it to a boil. For a second time, change the water and bring to a boil again. Pour out the water and weigh the fruit. Match with an equal amount of sugar. Cook over a low flame for about 45 minutes, or until it takes on a jam-like appearance.
3 cups vodka
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (can use brown sugar instead)
Remove zest/rind (yellow outer layer) and place this in a quart jar. (Keep the white peel for candied etrog.)
Add two cups of vodka and close lid tightly.
Store in a cool dark place (e.g. refrigerator) for at least two days, more usually 7 to 30 days.
Add the sugar. Shake until dissolved.
Add remaining vodka and stir until clear.
Close jar and store in a cool dark place for 6 weeks.
Filter through cheesecloth to clarify.