In this episode of Hebrew Voices, Chinese Origin of the Sukkot Etrog, Nehemia Gordon talks with ordained-rabbi Dr. David Moster about the "fruit" we are commanded to use on the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40). They discuss how the Citron or "Esrog" arrived in the Land of Israel in the Persian Period, how it played an important role in the rise of the Pharisees, and how it eventually became the distinctive symbol of Judaism - replacing God's holy name. Their conversation explores the Orthodox, Samaritan, and Karaite interpretations of Lev 23:40, its function in the Feast of Booths, and why a southeast Asian-Jewish fruit is a key ingredient in traditional Christmas cakes.
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Rabbi Dr. David Moster is the Founder and Director of The Institute of Biblical Culture, a non-profit organization that aims to provide the general public with an in-depth understanding of the Bible and its cultural world. Moster holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from Bar Ilan University, an MA in Ancient Israel from New York University, and Rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University. In addition to his publications in the Journal of Biblical Literature and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, Moster is also the author of the book Etrog: How a Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol (2018).
Targum Leviticus 23:40
Josephus, Antiquities 13:372 (13.13.5) "As to Alexander, his own people were seditious against him; for at a festival which was then celebrated, when he stood upon the altar, and was going to sacrifice, the nation rose upon him and pelted with citrons [which they then had in their hands, because] the laws of the Jews required that at the feast of tabernacles everyone should have branches of the palm tree and citron tree; which thing we have elsewhere related."
Mishnah, Sukkah 4:9
2 Maccabees 10:5-8
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Segment of a synagogue mosaic floor from Tiberias, 7th-8th century ce. with Greek inscription: ΠΡΟΚΛΟC ΚΡΙCΠΟΥ ΕΚΤΙCΕΝ (PROKLOS KRISPOU EKTISEN = "Proklos (son of) Krispos (= lat. Crispus) made (it)"). Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel.