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Monday
Oct142019

THE ESROG TRICK

The dalet minim market in Warsaw was busy. Many stalls with lulavim were scattered about the large market. Next to them were piles of haddassim and aravos, but esrogim? Where were the esrogim? There wasn’t a single esrogim stand!

People circulated with worried looks on their faces, searching for a mehudar esrog for Succos, but not a single one was available. The few esrogim that arrived were dried up. Who wanted to make a bracha on a shriveled esrog that was barely kosher?

That year there was a drought and the esrogim trees were also affected by the hot weather. Throughout that area it wasn’t possible to obtain mehudar esrogim and there didn’t seem to be any solution to the problem.

Yom Kippur passed and the seriousness of the Yomim Noraim was set aside for the joyous days of Succos. As soon as Yom Kippur was over, the sound of hammers could be heard as people built their wooden succas. Women worked over the Yom Tov menus and just one concern marred the simcha: the esrog. Esrogim still could not be obtained and how would they celebrate Succos without it? What sort of “time for our rejoicing” would it be?

The next morning, the town rejoiced. Mehudar esrogim had arrived!

“Really? There are esrogim? Is the rumor true?”

“Yes!” affirmed those in the know.

“Who? Where? How?”

“Svedek, the gentile vegetable seller, brought a big crate of nice esrogim this morning. Hodu L’Hashem ki tov!”

But the joy was premature. Hundreds of people crowded around Svedek’s stall within minutes. The burly, bald Svedek looked in astonishment at the long line.

“Why have so many Jews come to my stall?” he wondered. “There are many other vegetable stalls.”

He soon got the answer. The esrogim that he had just brought interested those Jews. Svedek’s eyes sparkled with the many coins he imagined he would earn. “Here is an opportunity to fill my pockets and earn what I haven’t earned all year.” An evil smile spread across his face. He tripled the price that he thought of asking for an esrog. When he stated his asking price, his customers exclaimed, “So expensive?!”

“Yes, that’s the price. You know, esrogim are not available. This what there is. If you want it, take; if not, not. Look elsewhere, heh heh heh.” The goy chuckled, knowing that no other stall had esrogim.

Having no choice, the rich ones among them chose nice esrogim but the goy’s greed wasn’t satisfied. “Hey, that esrog that you chose is large and nice and it’s more expensive …”

They could not agree to that. There was a limit to how much it was possible to pay. The long line of people slowly dispersed and the Jews returned home as sad as before. “There are esrogim but we can’t have them. What use is there in that?”

The Gerrer Rebbe, known as the Chiddushei HaRim, heard about it.

“Rebbe, we must do something. It is almost Succos and there are esrogim but we cannot afford them.”

The Rebbe thought for a bit and then he smiled and asked for the Jewish merchants, who sold esrogim every year, to come to him. Nobody understood how this would help but the merchants soon arrived. They entered the Rebbe’s room and the Rebbe said to close the door.

When they later left, they were smiling. Although people were curious, they did not say a word about what the Rebbe had told them.

In the morning, the Jewish merchants laid out their mechandise: aravos, haddassim, lulavim, and … what was that? Piles of boxes of esrogim! Where did they get it at the last minute?

“Beautiful esrogim! Mehudar esrogim came to Warsaw today! Come and select a beautiful esrog for Succos!” shouted the merchants. Thousands of Jews looked on in surprise at the stalls full of boxes of esrogim and then they began going from stall to stall, looking for an esrog.

Svedek looked in horror at the boxes of esrogim that suddenly appeared in the market. He had not expected that. If he would not be earning as much as he thought he would, at least he shouldn’t be left with rotten merchandise. After Succos, he knew there would be nothing to do with those esrogim. In a few hours the holiday would begin and he had to get rid of all the boxes he had.

Having no choice, he lowered the price of his esrogim until they were quite cheap. His stall soon filled with Jews and the esrogim were quickly sold. Svedek was astonished by how many Jews crowded his stall.

“That’s odd. Why are they choosing to buy from me? I guess the price I offered brought me many customers.” He smiled at the sight of the esrogim that were quickly being taken.

Svedek did not know what was actually in those boxes that the Jewish merchants had. If he only knew, he would not have been so frightened to drastically lower his price. In the boxes were wooden esrogim, with no taste or fragrance.

It was the wise idea of the Rebbe who told the merchants to order a large quantity of colored, wooden esrogim from the carpenters in the area. The merchants soon had boxes full of wooden esrogim. Thanks to Hashem, the trick worked and by the time Succos began, all residents of Warsaw, even the poor ones, had beautiful and cheap esrogim.

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