The Forward: “This Sukkot, Ditch Your Etrog and Lulav in Favor of Apples and Maple Leaves”


By CB Frommer

The anti-religious, left-leaning Forward has done it again, throwing tradition to the wind for “progressiveness” and “open-mindedness.”

The latest is an opinion piece by Ms. Jordie Gerson, who, the newspaper says, works “as a full-time rabbi for Adventure Rabbi, in Boulder, Colorado.” She is a public speaker and a writer with a blog at The Huffington Post.

Gerson begins by stating that “With its agricultural roots and its dictum to live close to the earth, Sukkot is the sine qua non of Jewish environmentalism. Camp out under the stars in what is essentially a lean-to, eat all your meals in it, invite friends over for homemade food and singing, and hang seasonally appropriate produce from its rafters? It’s almost as if the Torah anticipated patchouli-scented, croc-wearing hippie Jews.”

Yep, you read that right. No typos there. It’s as if “the Torah anticipated patchouli-scented, croc-wearing hippie Jews.”

Isn’t that what you think of as you prepare for Sukkos? Oh, you don’t?

Well, Gerson’s just getting started.

She continues: “And yet, each year, we produce a massive carbon footprint in the lead-up to Sukkot’s celebration of abundance and its message to live more sustainably and more in concert with the seasons. I’m talking about the lulav and etrog — the palm frond, myrtle, willow and citron that we Jews are commanded to bless during the holiday. As compost friendly as they may be (and technically, according to Jewish law, you’re not allowed to compost them, you have to burn them), they are flown in from Israel and shipped en masse to American Jewish communities that couldn’t grow a palm tree or an etrog grove if they tried. (I’m looking at you, Chicago, New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Denver and everywhere with a winter).”

Gerson says that adding to the “absurdity of the transnational schlep” is the cost of lulavim and esrogim. “An etrog with a really nice pitom (the withered stub of the etrog that once connected the fruit to the tree) can run you upward of $100, $200 or even $300,” she says.

She goes on to say that “the requirement of the four species made a great deal of sense in their original geographical and agricultural context. It doesn’t anymore.”

But what luck, says Gerson. We’re smack in the middle of the harvest season here in North America.

“We have maple and oak and aspen leaves (at least in Colorado, where I am); we have squash, apples and pumpkins in abundance. So why are we still insisting on importing astronomically expensive produce and leaves from the Middle East rather than picking an apple off our trees, using maple and oak branches from our own yards, and shaking them the same way we do with the lulav and etrog?”

She says that she’s all for lulavim and esrogim “in the right context.” She loves “the sound of the lulav and the smell of the etrog — and the nostalgia that both evoke — as much as anyone. So if you live in Southern California or Arizona or Florida, or anywhere where palm trees and citrus fruit grow with abandon, be a crafty Jew and make your own local, sustainable lulav (and even etrog, if you have the foresight to have, or live in proximity to, an etrog tree; if not, a lemon will suffice and will smell just as good).”

Gerson then provides a religious reason for her absurd proposal: “There’s a Jewish value underlying the adaptation I’m proposing. It’s the value of ba’al tashchit, refraining from needless waste or destruction. It’s part of an ancient and sacred environmental ethic teaching us that when at war, one is not allowed to cut down the fruit trees of the land one is besieging. How much more so, the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud added, we should not needlessly destroy or waste other natural resources. In the Sifrei (a Jewish legal midrash), Rabbi Yishmael even writes that if the Torah tells us not to destroy fruit trees, then we should be even more careful about destroying the fruit of those trees — the concrete benefit they bring us.”

There you have it. Gerson knows better than Chazal, than generations of Jews since time immemorial, than basically anyone else.

This Sukkos, she’ll be “ditching” her esrog and lulav in favor of apples and maple leaves.

Klal Yisroel, on the other hand, will remain with the precious Daled Minim, as the Torah instructs and as our nation has conducted itself for generations.



  1. Baal Tashchit? For performing a mitzvah? I love it when people try to sound smart and throw around hlachic terms without a clue to what it means. Maybe she should stop using toilet paper and disposable womens care products first.

    So silly. Thanks Matzav! Really adds to the hemshech of purim and yom kippur!
    Chag Sameach.


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