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The One True Esrog

Photos: Naftoli Goldgrab

For many years, Rabbi Shalom Ghoori has been engaged in what can only be described as a labor of love and dedication. His mission is to make the unique esrogim he and his Yemenite ancestors have been using for millennia — most of which are externally identical to the average esrog, though some are papaya-sized and famously unwieldy — the esrogim of Klal Yisrael.

I recall seeing him set up shop several years ago in a shul in Flatbush a few minutes before Maariv. He gave a little talk about the attributes that an esrog must possess in order to make it suitable for the mitzvah, including the many places in Gemara suggesting that an esrog is a fruit meant to be eaten. He then cut open a standard esrog, the kind most people use, and showed off its innards: a small pulp, too sour to be edible, encased in a thick rind.

“These are not edible esrogim,” he said. “Let me show you the real esrog used by Chazal.”

The huge esrog he brought was then cut into pieces and handed out to the mispallelim for a quick taste test. While tangy, the esrog was indeed flavorful. What’s more, the rind was about the thickness of an average orange or grapefruit.

“You see?” he announced triumphantly. “The other esrog you cannot eat.”

Rabbi Ghoori, who authored a sefer on the subject called Esrog Chazal V’hamesores, can be quite persistent in his contention that the only proven kosher esrog today is the Yemeni esrog, which he refers to as the “esrog Chazal v’hamesores,” sometimes qualifying that it is the “Chazal esrog of the Yemeni variety.”

I discovered this during a recent visit with Rabbi Ghoori.

“The esrogim that are commonly used are not real esrogim,” he insists. “The Yiddishe esrogim, the kind brought down in the Gemara — those are the ones that we have. Those are the ones mentioned by the Chasam Sofer, the Rema, the Minchas Elazar.”

“So in your opinion,” I start, “the esrog that we use…”

“…is a murkav ,” he says with finality. “It’s grafted.”

“It can’t be a murkav if gedolei Yisrael used it,” I venture back.

“Who are these gedolei Yisrael?”

“The Chazon Ish. Most rebbes and rabbanim.”

“The Chazon Ish did not use it.”

This is merely the introduction. Rabbi Ghoori takes out his sefer, the one in which he takes readers through all his research advocating for Yemenite esrogim.

The Yemenite variety is not a new product. But Rabbi Ghoori believes his research establishes it as the purest esrog. And he wants communities around the world to know it.

“The Chofetz Chaim says in the name of the Gra that Hashem sometimes hides a chiddush from Klal Yisrael in order to give a certain person the credit for discovering it. This,” Rabbi Ghoori says, holding up his green-and-yellow-colored sefer, “is what Hashem gave me.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 781)

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