The etrog is a citron fruit with a smell and flavor, and can potentially cost the Jewish consumer hundreds of dollars for the perfect citrus fruit.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv (Reporter: Sivan Raviv)
According to farmer Eliezer Daube, "The etrog has flavor and scent, and that also implies on the kinds of people that have mitzvot and good deeds."
Daube has been in the business of growing etrogim for over 35 years. He employs 15 farmers in the town of Kadima, along with additional farms across Israel. The tradition implies that the citrus they grow must look magnificent.
"Etrog's meaning in the Torah is a citron fruit, beautiful and esthetic," he says. "How can an etrog be called esthetic? The Halacha gives guidelines as to what is classified as etrog 'mehudar' (fancy), what is a kosher etrog, what is a medium etrog.
"We try to make the etrog 'mehudar,' that means clean, with a nice elongated elliptic growth , not like a ball-shaped, with a good color which is not too green and not too yellow, and that's what we are working on the whole year."
Clean, fancy, beautiful and esthetic
It takes about a year to develop the etrog tree and allow it to yield the citrus fruit, which needs to be grown and kept in a particular manner. Every etrog fruit receives individual treatment.
"Every etrog receives personal treatment," Daube adds. "The etrog begins when it's tiny, coming out of the flower, and then we keep it from pests, spraying during all the summer months so that the etrog will remain clean."
The etrog business requires much labor and effort, and the product can get quite pricey.
"The prices for an etrog to the customer move around between $10 up to $300," Daube says. "We treat the etrog not as a fruit, but as a diamond. We work in a business which is in fact agriculture but it's a diamond polishing plant in field condition, like the diamond cutter that cleans and fixes and sets the diamond and polishes.
"This is what we do with the etrog, because the demand is that it will be totally clean, fancy, beautiful and esthetic. That is the maximal demand of the Jews that want to bless on an etrog 'mehudar she ba'mehudar' (the fanciest of all), and they are willing to pay any price."
From the etrog farms, the citron fruit is washed, sorted and packaged, and is then sent over to stores so that Jews can purchase and bless over it, along with the three other plants, on this holiday.