The four species: A morality tale

For the last many years I have purchased a few sets of the four species for myself and other family members. I enjoy the mitzvah of selecting an unblemished etrog and a palm branch with an intact spine, the hadasim that have a reddish tint to the stem and there is the requisite number of leaves at each spot on the aravot, although the last two species now come prepackaged.  I spend a fair amount of money to make sure that all of the four are nice examples of each type. It is a process that takes a good several minutes and I marvel at the dedication of the many people who take the time to do the same. There are usually three levels of perfection of the species, particularly the etrog, and as you go up in level of perfection the cost rises. Still the most expensive sets that I have seen are within a fairly reasonable price range.

Lots of people come to choose their four species with the help of a magnifying glass and the new aide that some are using for selecting the most beautiful etrog is an LED light pack. The stringency with which they review each square millimeter of the fruit boarders on being compulsive. It is not unlike the person who after putting on the tefillin shel rosh and then spends a good many minutes adjusting it while checking in a hand mirror. But it works for them and gives them a sense of closeness to the ritual, or at the very least reduces the stress they may feel at not having the perfect tools to perform the mitzvah or alleviates some unnecessary guilt.

I did mention that there are generally three levels of etrog lulav sets but I also know that there are some people who believe that the very highest level is still not good enough for them. I met one of them just yesterday while at the store. I should point out that I knew this man from before and different circumstances. He was picking out his very special “mehudar” set. I stumbled in on his conversation as he was wrapping up the deal with the shop owner, and I admit I did unfortunately eavesdrop. His bill for one set of etrog, lulav, hadasim and aravot along with a back up package of hadasim and aravot came out to a whopping $475. Now that is almost double what I paid for three sets of the top grade that I was aware of. No one told me that there was a super duper higher category of even more expensive etrogim which is quite ok with me I doubt that I would spend that kind of money on such a display. But, to my untrained eye and from what I could see there was virtually no difference in size, shape or other qualitative feature between the extra expensive set and my previously thought to be top of the line set.

Size, quality, hiddur mitzvah aside, I said I knew the man purchasing the super expensive items. I knew him because he is someone who owes me double the amount of money he spent for a little over ten years.  I got to thinking that if he had just given me ten dollars a month for all those years his bill would have been paid or perhaps his purchase of so expensive a set might just be my mitzvah.  

He acknowledged me and we wished each other a good yom tov.  Just after Yom Kippur we should all remember that the sins between god and man may have been absolved by fasting and prayer.

The sins between people require more.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."