All The Things That You Need to Know About Etrog Boxes for Sukkot
Etrog Boxes for Sukkot
Sukkot is a wonderful Jewish holiday that falls at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. It’s not as important as Passover or Rosh HaShanah, and not quite as popular as Purim and Hanukkah, but is still an important event on the Jewish calendar.
If you ask most people about Sukkot traditions, they’ll immediately mention building a Sukkah in the garden and camping out in it. Even less adventurous people will build a sukkah for the kids or grandkids, and usually eat a full meal in it at least once.
There’s another unique Sukkot tradition that many overlook. It’s the ritual of displaying an etrog and keeping it in an etrog box. Etrog is one of the ‘four species’ associated with Sukkot and the etrog tradition still inspires Judaica designers to create amazing handmade etrog boxes. We’ll explore the Sukkot holiday and the etrog rituals, and take a look at some of the finest sterling silver etrog boxes from Jerusalem.
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What is the Sukkot Holiday?
Sukkot – also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles – is a week-long Jewish holiday commanded by the Torah. It begins five days after Yom Kippur and was originally a harvest festival. The holiday begins with two days of celebrations where it is forbidden to work. In Israel, the first two days are public holidays. Sukkot continues with three days of half-holidays known as Chol Hamoed. The final two days of Sukkot are also celebrated as full holidays.
When is Sukkot 2023?
Sukkot 2023 begins at sundown on Friday, September 29th. It officially ends at sunset on Friday, October 6th. If you’re living in Israel, the evening temperatures will be perfect for sitting and relaxing in a Sukkah. If you’re in the North of the US or Northern Europe, it may be rather less pleasant…
If you’re celebrating Sukkot 2023 with a family dinner, you’ll need some basic items of Judaica for the meal:
A Kiddush cup,
Shabbat candlesticks and candles,
A challah board and knife
An etrog box.
If you’re keen to observe the ancient ritual Sukkot traditions, you’ll also need to buy – or forage – the four species mentioned in the Torah.
Etrog and the Four Species
אתרוג וארבעת המינים
The four species or four kinds are etrog (a citrus fruit), lulav (palm fronds), hadasim (myrtle twigs) and aravot (willow twigs). They are all native to Israel and are easy to obtain for Sukkot. It’s traditional to recite a blessing over each of the four species and wave them in the air on every day of the holiday (except Shabbat).
Etrog – אתרוג– The fruit of a citron tree
Lulav – לולב – The closed frond of a date palm
Hadass – הדס – A branch from a myrtle tree
Aravah – ערבה – A branch from a willow tree
Etrog is a yellow citrus fruit that looks a little bit like a lemon. It’s not especially tasty, but does make great jam. Etrog jam is a delicacy that’s sometimes served after Sukkot. Jewish folklore also recommends etrog as a type of segula (a form of folk magic from Kabbalistic and Talmudic traditions) to help women have easy childbirth.
One of the holiday traditions is to wrap the chosen etrog in silky flax leaves and keep it in a special etrog box. Over the centuries, Jewish silversmiths and artisans created highly ornate and beautifully designed etrog boxes, specifically for Sukkot.
Handmade etrog boxes are part of any boutique Judaica collection and come in all kinds of styles. Observant families still bring out their etrog box every year and follow the traditional etrog ritual. If you have kids, it’s also a lot of fun to buy etrog and keep it in an etrog box during Sukkot. Even if you’re only celebrating the holiday with a single family dinner, bringing out the etrog is a great way to teach children about their Jewish heritage and the old traditions.
Handmade Etrog Boxes from Jerusalem
Etrog boxes for Sukkot are traditionally made of silver. Modern Israeli jewelers use 925 sterling silver and may also decorate the boxes with colored enamel inlay of semi precious stones or gems like amethysts. Etrog boxes are first and foremost functional items. Many boxes are shaped to hold the etrog comfortably and may look almost like egg cups with lids. Older style boxes tend to be square or rectangular in shape.
Etrog boxes are a low priority purchase for many Jewish families. Bringing out the etrog and the (other species) is a minor tradition that takes place just once a year. A handmade silver etrog box may only be used over the Sukkot week, but it is still a beautiful ornament. An etrog box will look fantastic on a dresser or in a display case in your living room or dining room. You will only use a hanukiah (Hanukkah menorah or candelabra) for one week a year, but it’s also a stunning ornament.
Serious Judaica collectors accumulate items over a lifetime and often invest a lot of time and money in building up their collections. A Jewish wedding is a great opportunity to receive a full collection of holiday Judaica for your future family. It is a real pleasure to know that you’re fully equipped for all the main events on the Jewish calendar. Apart from Shabbat tableware, it’s wonderful to be able to raise your children in a home that has dreidels, a megillah case for Purim, a real hanukkiah, and an etrog box.
It’s often a problem to find the right gift for a particular occasion. Regardless of the size or value of a gift, everybody loves to bring a present that’s interesting and original. A handmade silver etrog box will definitely become a talking point and will attract a lot of attention. You’ll be surprised how many people won’t even know what it is. Half the pleasure is in explaining the etrog tradition and opening people’s eyes to a special Jewish ritual!
When you buy a handmade silver etrog box online, you have a few basic choices. The first question is whether to opt for a traditional or modern design. Traditional designs tend to be square or rectangular boxes and many feature intricate ornamentation. Popular decorations include traditional Yemenite style silver filigree work, and silver solder with colored enamel inlay. Sukkot themes such as lulavs (date palm fronds) and other branches are often skillfully worked from silver solder.
tend to be more minimalistic and often follow an ‘egg cup’ design. The emphasis is usually on showing off the shiny 925 sterling silver and adding subtle decorations like silver beading, engraving or silver stamping. Sukkot blessings, written in Hebrew, are used to decorate some modern etrog boxes.
For all our sterling silver etrog boxes click here
When to Buy and Etrog Box
The most obvious time to buy an etrog box as a gift is just before Sukkot. If you’re attending a Sukkot dinner, a handmade etrog box is a superb way to show your gratitude and appreciation. It’s a small gift that can be carefully wrapped and beautifully presented. There’s no risk of embarrassing your hosts by giving them something that’s too big, or ostentatious. An etrog box is a tasteful present that displays a lot of thought and consideration.
If you want to buy an etrog box online, it’s worth shopping well in advance of Sukkot. There may be online summer sales or special deals in the run up to the Jewish holidays. If you want to buy an etrog box as a wedding gift, housewarming gift, or a corporate gift, you can probably also find special deals.
When you buy any item of Judaica as a gift – even online – it’s often possible to get it customized for free. It’s always worth contacting the sales team or customer service and asking about prices and options. Once you’re talking, you may well be offered a product upgrade or a discount. Top Israeli Judaica artists like Avi Nadav have a passion for their art and are always open to ideas and suggestions from customers.
Cleaning and Caring for an Etrog Box
When you buy a handmade sterling silver etrog box from Jerusalem, you’re investing in a beautiful item that will last for centuries. You’ll be able to pass it on to your kids or grandkids as a family heirloom. When you own a piece of fine Jewish craftsmanship, you’ll definitely want to display it as an ornament until Sukkot comes around again.
Fortunately it’s easy to clean and polish even the most intricate silver etrog box. Modern Israeli jewelers use 925 sterling silver to create modern Judaica products. The number 925 actually means 92.5% and is the proportion of pure silver in the sterling silver alloy. 925 sterling silver is ideal for creating fine silverware and tableware and has been used for over 1,000 years.
925 sterling silver etrog boxes are robust enough for regular use and are unlikely to dent if take a minor knock. The sterling silver arrives from the Jerusalem workshop with an immaculate finish and a gleaming polish. As with all silver products, it will lose its shine and tarnish over time. A regular clean and polish is enough to keep it clean and shiny.
You don’t need any special skills to polish 925 sterling silver until it gleams. Your local hardware store or supermarket carries silver and metal cleaning products and you can easily find one that suits your needs. Follow the instructions on the packet and then apply some old fashioned elbow grease!
If you buy an etrog box with intricate Yemenite style silver filigree ornamentation, an old toothbrush can be ideal for applying your silver cleaning product. Use as little as possible and remove any excess from inside the silver filigree work with another soft brush. If you run out of silver cleaner, a paste made from white vinegar and baking soda will do a pretty good job.
If you live in a humid environment, your silverware may tarnish faster. A good tip is to place a silica gel packet inside the etrog box when you display it as an ornament. The silica gel will absorb moisture in the air and help to prevent discoloration and tarnishing.
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