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An etrog tin in the shape of a pomegranate with three leaves, oxidised and open in the middle. The exhibit presumably belonged to rich Jews, as only they could afford such a decorated, silver container, used to carry the etrog to a synagogue on the holiday of Sukkot.

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An etrog tin in the shape of a pomegranate with three leaves, oxidised and open in the middle. The exhibit presumably belonged to rich Jews, as only they could afford such a decorated, silver container, used to carry the etrog to a synagogue on the holiday of Sukkot.

Elaborated by the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów, © all rights reserved

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Meaning of the etrog tin

There are special, richly decorated containers used to carry the etrog to a synagogue on the holiday of Sukkot. The etrog tin is usually in the shape of a fruit – as in the case of the one in the collection from the Museum in Chrzanów – or a bowl. It can be made of silver, sometimes it is also gilded inside. Poorer Jews used wooden boxes for carrying the citrus fruit. Also, silver sugar bowls could serve as containers for the etrog. 

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There are special, richly decorated containers used to carry the etrog to a synagogue on the holiday of Sukkot. The etrog tin is usually in the shape of a fruit – as in the case of the one in the collection from the Museum in Chrzanów – or a bowl. It can be made of silver, sometimes it is also gilded inside. Poorer Jews used wooden boxes for carrying the citrus fruit. Also, silver sugar bowls could serve as containers for the etrog. The role of the etrog tin is, however, not only about its festive appearance. What is also important is that it protects the fruit from losing its kosherness [see: the Judaica theme presentation], which in this case means any damage that could prevent the use of the etrog during the holiday of Sukkot. The chosen fruit for the festive bouquet must be perfect – ripe and unspoiled. Also, the so-called pitam – the characteristic post-like extension at the end of the fruit, must remain intact. There is a danger that it can fall off, as the etrog is used in the ceremony of shaking during the holiday of Sukkot.
On each day of the seven-day holiday of Sukkot, one must go around the bimah in a synagogue, with the etrog in the left hand and the lulav (the remaining ingredients of the holiday bouquet) in the right hand. The etrog and the lulav are shaken in six directions, in the strictly established order: east (always to the front), south (to the right), west (to the back over one’s shoulder), north (to the left), upwards and downwards. The ceremony of shaking them in all directions symbolises the omnipresence of God. In Israel the ritual of shaking is often held at the Western Wall of the Holy Temple, called the Wailing Wall. The act of raising the bouquet symbolises the victory of Israel over other nations.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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What is an etrog?

The etrog (Hebrew: citrus fruit), sometimes called the paradise apple, is one of the four species of plants (along with a branch from a palm, myrtle and willow tree) creating the holiday bouquet for Sukkot (rather known as the Holiday of Booths or Kuczki in Poland). It is the only ingredient that tastes...

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The etrog (Hebrew: citrus fruit), sometimes called the paradise apple, is one of the four species of plants (along with a branch from a palm, myrtle and willow tree) creating the holiday bouquet for Sukkot (rather known as the Holiday of Booths or Kuczki in Poland). It is the only ingredient that tastes and smells good. It symbolises a Jew studying the Torah and following God’s commandments. While uttering the Blessing over the four species during the holiday of Sukkot, the etrog is held separately in the left hand and pressed firmly to the heart. The etrog symbolises this most important organ of the body and hence its special position in the holiday bouquet. According to one of the interpretations of the Talmud (commentaries to the Biblical Torah), the forbidden fruit picked by Eve in the Garden of Eden was the etrog and not the apple. In the commentary to the Book of Leviticus (the third book of the Torah), one can find the sentence saying that pregnant women who consume “paradise apples” give birth to “fragrant [aromatic] children,” from which many folk beliefs in the Jewish tradition originated. Because of the sin of disobedience committed by Eve in the Garden of Eden, women must give birth in pain, consumption of the “paradise apple” by a woman giving birth was intended to bring her relief from suffering. Eating the woody stem guaranteed a son, while hiding this part of the fruit bitten off after the holiday of Sukkot under a pillow ensured a light labour.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See: Etrog tin from the collection of Museum in Chrzanów.

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The Festival of Booths

Tishrei is an early-autumn month with an abundance of holidays, more so than any other month in the Jewish calendar. It starts with the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashana (the New Year), then, after only a few days break (on the 10th of Tishrei), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is celebrated – the most important day in the Jewish liturgical calendar and, 5 days later, another holiday begins and lasts as long as 7 days in Israel and 8 days outside of Israel.

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Tishrei is an early-autumn month with an abundance of holidays, more so than any other month in the Jewish calendar. It starts with the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashana (the New Year), then, after only a few days break (on the 10th of Tishrei), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is celebrated – the most important day in the Jewish liturgical calendar and, 5 days later, another holiday begins and lasts as long as 7 days in Israel and 8 days outside of Israel.

The name of the holiday – Sukkot – means shelters, tents, booths (sukkah in the singular), which is why the name of the holiday is translated into English as the Festival of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a reference to the portable huts in which Jews lived during the 40-year journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

Sukkot is one of the three so-called pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim), next to Pesach and Shavuot, during which, in ancient times, Jews went to Jerusalem to make offerings from their crops in the Temple. At that time, the capital of the Jewish state would also be filled with booths inhabited by pilgrims.

But the significance of a sukkah is not only historical. Moving to a humble shelter for a few days a year symbolizes the trust that Jews place in God and their faith that He is their protector in every situation. It also symbolizes equality between people – the rich and the poor. In addition, leaving their homes makes people aware of the fleeting nature of earthly things. Attention to the latter is also drawn in the Ecclesiastes, read in synagogues at the time of the Sukkot.

Contemporary sukkahs are built wherever possible – in gardens, on balconies, roofs or backyards. They can be huge, adapted for hosting festive meals for up to a few dozen people, or tiny ones, designed for a single person only. It is not the size that is important, but that the sukkah should have at least two complete walls and a fragment of the third, and a roof covered with branches or palm leaves, with enough gaps so that it is possible to see the stars. The walls of the booth are sometimes covered from the inside with fabrics and decorated with pictures, chains, flowers; on the roof as well, there is an abundance of specially prepared paper decorations, lanterns or fruit and candy hanging from branches.

Such decoration turns the booth into a pleasant, cosy place where you can feel at home, which is indeed the main idea – to spend as much time as possible in it and to do things that are usually associated with home such as food, studying, socializing, and, weather permitting, sleeping too. In Poland, at the end of September or the beginning of October (when Sukkot takes place), at night the temperature is too low to sleep in a booth, but in countries with a warmer climate, it’s common practice.

Like most Jewish holidays, the Sukkot begins with a formal dinner, but this time it is not eaten at home but in a booth. Just before sunset, festive candles are lit (usually by women), parents bless their children, blessings are spoken over wine and bread, accompanied by formulas praising God for this special time and for the commandments related to the celebration of the holiday.

For Jews, welcoming guests and inviting them to a formal meal is an important element of the celebrations. This is no less important during the Sukkot. This time, however, according to the tradition, in addition to the earthly guests, on each of the seven days one of the biblical heroes is symbolically greeted in the sukkahs. These special guests are called Ushpizin from Aramaic, and they are respectively: the forefathers of the Jewish people – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jacob’s son – Joseph, followed by Moses, his brother and the first high priest Aaron and King David.

Staying in a booth is not the only religious commandment related to the holiday of Sukkot.

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days”[1].

This means that a bundle should be prepared, named in Hebrew arba minim  – “four species”. These are: palm leaves (lulav), myrtle twigs (hadass) and willow (aravah). The fourth plant, kept separately, in the other hand, is etrog – a citrus fruit slightly resembling a lemon. During morning prayers, a blessing is spoken over these four species of plants, brandishing the bouquet towards the four corners of the world, as well as up and down.

The seventh day of the Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah. On this day, while holding the arba minim in their hands, Jews circle the bimah (a platform in the centre of the synagogue, on which the Torah scrolls are placed) seven times, at the same time singing songs of supplication, in which successive sentences end with the word hosha-na (‘save us’).

In Israel, this is the last day of the Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret – celebrated the next day – is treated as a separate holiday. In the diaspora, most of the holidays are extended by one day, hence Shemini Atzeret (which may be translated literally as “The Eighth Day of Assembly”) is celebrated as the eighth day of Sukkot. On this day, the liturgy is enriched by prayers for rain and remembering the dead.

In the month of Tishrei, there is one more holiday – the one-day holiday of Simchat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Torah), followed directly by Shemini Atzeret, when one annual cycle of reading the Torah ends and another begins. Jews have to wait two months for the next holiday (the Hanukkah).
 

Elaborated by Julia Makosz, 
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland.

 

[1] Lev. 23,40; Tora. Pięcioksiąg Mojżesza [Torah. Moses’ Pentateuch], translated by Izaak Cylkow, Kraków 2006 (reprint).

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Etrog tin

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Puszka na etrog odc. B Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Puszka na etrog odc. A Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Puszka na etrog [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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