Every Jewish holiday comes with its set of very particular traditions. There is the carefully-prescribed sequence of shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah, the prohibition on putting anything (even a toothbrush) in one’s mouth on Yom Kippur, the precise order of lighting the menorah’s candles during Chanukah, and of course the uncompromising war on chametz in preparation for Passover.
Then along comes Sukkot, when the focus is the etrog, the yellow citron used as one of the ‘four species,’ plants and fruit ritually used by observant Jews during this holiday. A kosher etrog must pass a battery of tests. It must have the right proportions and color, be free of stains or blemishes, and above all, its pistil end (or “nipple”) must be intact. Hasidic Jews at Jerusalem’s Sukkot markets are often seen holding up magnifying glasses to these lemon-like fruit, meticulously scrutinizing them for imperfections. You don’t want to end up with a lemon. It must be perfect.