Rabbi Moshe Bloom
Former Rosh Kollel (Warsaw, 2013-2017)
Currently Head of the English department at Machon HaTorah Ve’Haaretz, the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel

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Edited from an article of Rabbi Yehuda Zoldan, Sukkat Katif, a Torah VeHa’aretz Publication, 5766.

Over the past few centuries, most etrogim grew outside the Land of Israel. Upon our return to our land, kosher, ungrafted etrog orchards were planted in Israel. Is it preferable to use an etrog that grew in Israel even though taking the arba minim isn’t a land-dependent mitzvah?

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (Eitz Hadar HaShalem) ascribed major significance to the fact that these ungrafted etrogim grow in the Land of Israel:
“Many illustrious giants, saintly men of the generation and truly righteous individuals would pine to perform the mitzvah of [taking an] etrog grown specifically in the Land of Israel”.

Similar sentiments were written by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (Aruch HaShulchan OC §648:29):
“Any Jew whose heart has a touch of fear of G-d should take the etrogim of the Land of Israel. And how are we not ashamed and humiliated that we have the ability to perform the mitzvah from the fruit of our Holy Land, but we rather take from the Lands of the Nations? Woe to us for this shame, woe to us for this humiliation. It is about this that it is stated: “And they have rejected the desirable land” (Tehillim 106:24).

Rabbi Ovadia Hadaya’s writes along the same lines (Yaskil Avdi VI §21):
“We do not see that etrogim [are one of the species] that the Land of Israel is praised with [not part of shivat haminim], so from where do we see a reason to prefer them? For other fruits that are not included in those that the Land of Israel is praised with, we have not seen that one should recite a blessing on them before blessing fruit grown outside the Land. However, it is my humble opinion that it is clear that the fruit of the Land of Israel are preferable in light of their sanctity, since they grew in holiness and purity
As we have found in the Gemara : Rabbi Abba would kiss the rocks of Akko and Rabbi Chiya bar Gamda would roll in the dust of the land… we certainly should prefer it to any other plants outside the Land of Israel… And this matter is simple and clear to all”.

Rabbi Binyamin Zilber concurs (Benei Beraq 5752; made Aliya from Europe at the age of 18: Mishnat Binyamin: Shevi’it §59):
“On my part, this is a simple matter. If I were outside the Land of Israel (I hope that in the future I will not be abroad), I would say the blessing on [an etrog] from the Land of Israel—even not mehudar—rather than an etrog that did not grow in the Holy Land, even if especially mehudar. And I do not need any proofs for this, since it is already etched on my very heart”.

For the full article, click here.
Chag Sukkut Sameach!