We are continuing a partial list of factors which invalidate the Esrog. This is part 4 of a series which we composed and sent around several years ago (How’s that for patience!) If you do not see a point you were wondering about, or if you would like to see the entire presentation of the halachos of the Esrog - or any of the Arba Minim - please holler and request back-issues from MBY Archives!
5) Round. An esrog which appears that unusual, that it does not appear in the shape of an esrog, is pasul (invalid). Since the usual shape of an esrog is elongated, an esrog which is round as a ball is pasul.
8) ‘Murkav’. A ‘murkav’, that is, an esrog which is a product of grafting with a lemon, an orange or with any other fruit, is pasul. If an esrog was a product of grafting one esrog tree with another esrog tree it is kosher. One may not use a murkav even for the rest of the days of Sukkos. Even if the only esrog available is a murkav, it is questionable whether it may be used, even without a bracha.
9) There are three simanim – visible characteristics – which differentiate between a murkav and a kosher esrog:
a) The outer skin of a murkav is smooth; the outer skin of a kosher esrog has bump-like elevations (Heb. ‘blitos’
b) The ‘oketz’ – the stem of a murkav – is on the surface of the fruit; the oketz of the kosher esrog is recessed into the fruit.
c) The skin of the murkav is thin and its fruity portion is large and juicy; the skin of the kosher esrog is thick and its fruity portion is small and contains very little juice.
Some poskim mention a fourth sign. The seeds of the murkav lie horizontally, while the seeds of the kosher esrog point vertically.
10) The “Chasam Sofer” (a major halachic authority of the 19th century) holds that one may not rely exclusively on these characteristics. One may only use an esrog from an orchard which has a mesorah (tradition) from earlier generations which established that it is not a murkav. This should be confirmed with a letter attesting to its kashrus. The Chafetz Chaim zt”l (author of Mishnah Berura) cautions that many forms of deception are prevalent in the sale of esrogim. Therefore, the only way to be truly certain that you are obtaining an esrog which is not a murkav, is to purchase it from a reliable dealer which is a ‘yerai shamayim’ (fears Heaven).
(Ed. Don’t let them sell you a lemon!!)
11) ‘Chazazis’. A chazazis is a type of blister or lichen (skin disease) which is caused by rotting, mold or fungus. The chazazis is a growth raised above the level of the esrog. The color may be similar to the color of the esrog or may be a completely different color…
13) A chazazis can invalidate an esrog in one of three ways:
a) Rov (majority) – If there is one large growth and it covers most of the surface of the esrog, where it extends to the other side of the esrog, the esrog is pasul…
b) Two or three growths – If two or three such growths are found on the esrog, although they cover less than half the esrog, the esrog is considered as a ‘menumar’ (a spotted esrog) and is pasul. If these two or three spots are found on one side of the esrog, most poskim hold that the esrog is kosher.
c) On the ‘chotem’ (“nose” – see part 2 of this siman) – If the chazazis was on the ‘chotem’…, even one small chazazis can pasul the esrog.
14) A small growth or dry spot appearing on the ‘chotem’ of the esrog will invalidate the esrog only if it is clearly visible to all. However, if because of its minute size one is required to gaze intently in order to notice the spot, it is kosher.
16) Marks. Marks on the esrog (Yid. ‘bletel-ach’), which are not raised above the level of the esrog, caused by thorns or leaves resting on the esrog during growth, are kosher, since this is the normal growth of the esrog. However, they do take away from the beauty and ‘hidur’ of the esrog.
17) ‘Shinui mar-eh’. Certain color changes on an esrog are considered as ‘shinui mar-eh’ and an esrog containing these color changes are considered as ‘menumar’ (spotted), and thereby invalidate the esrog. (Keep reading…)
18) Black or white on an esrog is a color which invalidates the esrog. Therefore, if an esrog has on it a black or white spot, the halacha is similar to chazazis (see 13)
19) Black dots. Concerning the black dots which are very common on esrogim, if they are dirt or dust – although they do not invalidate the esrog, they should preferably be removed. However, as learned that black is an invalidating color, and there are black dts which are not dirt or dust, but are color changes. These dots are similar in halacha to the ‘chazazis’ (see 13, 18). If they can be removed without damaging the esrog, the esrog is kosher after they are removed.
21) Brown. A dark brown color on an esrog is not a permissible color – similar to black. However, brown spots which come from usage of the esrog do not invalidate the esrog.
22) Green. A green esrog is pasul – because it hasn’t ripened yet. However, those esrogim which eventually turn to yellow off the tree are kosher – although they are presently green. It is preferable not to purchase an esrog until it began turning yellow.
Selecting a choice esrog We will list those desirable characteristics which one should look for in a ‘mehudar’ – a choice esrog (Ed. These are “preferences” – lacking them does not mean the esrog is pasul):
1) The cleaner the esrog is, the more ‘mehudar’ it is. However, on the ‘chotem’ of the esrog and on the ‘pitom’ there should not be any spots. Even a ‘bletel’ on the ‘chotem’ takes away from its beauty.
2) The esrog should have many ‘blitos’ – bump-like elevations. It should not be smooth like a lemon.
3) The ‘oketz’ – the stem of the esrog – should be recessed. That is, the esrog should grow around the ‘oketz’, rather than the ‘oketz’ growing around the surface.
4) The esrog should be built like a tower. That is, the lower portion near the ‘oketz’ should be wide, and the upper portion (near the ‘pitom’) should gradually narrow. However, if the portion near the ‘pitom’ is wider or equal to the lower portion, the esrog is not a ‘mehudar’. Similarly, roundness is shape similar to a ball takes away from the ‘hidur’ of the esrog.
5) The ‘pitom’ and the ‘shoshanta’ (cap - see part 3) should be whole.
6) The ‘pitom’ and the ‘oketz’ should be in the center of the esrog, with the ‘pitom’ directly opposite the ‘oketz’. That is, the esrog should not be curved or bent.