Thursday, September 24, 2015

Halacha: Are Green Esrogim Valid?

Rav Aryeh Leibowitz

The Gemara records a dispute regarding the validity of an esrog that is “yarok like a leek.”  Although we normally assume the word “yarok” to mean green, תוספות demonstrates that Chazal understood the term “yarok” in different ways.  In many locations, “yarok” refers to a color that glistens, and is more correctly identified with yellowish gold.  There are a number of halakhic ramifications to the identification of “yarok” as yellowish gold and not green.  Examples include the laws of Nidah, Nega’im, and טריפות.  Additionally, this identification provides a new perspective on the Gemara in Rosh Hashana that describes Esther as having a “yarok” colored complexion. 

In regards to an Esrog, תוספות’s analysis suggests that the Gemara here says “yarok like a leek” to indicate that the color under discussion is green and not the regular “yarok,” which is yellowish gold. The Rambam, Rosh and Shulchan Aruch rule like R. Yehudah that an esrog that is “yarok like a leek” – green – is invalid. 

The Gemara seemingly concludes that the reason a green esrog is invalid is because it’s color indicates that it is not yet fully ripened, and did not grow enough time to be considered – according to Halacha –an esrog.  However, תוספות adds that even though the true color of an esrog is yellow, if a green esrog begins to turn to yellow after it has already been picked, it is considered valid.   Therefore, a light green esrog is valid, as it already contain a shade of yellow, and is no longer considered “yarok as a leek.”
Although there are dissenting opinion (most notably that of the Bach who invalidates an esrog that contains any green shade in its color), the standard opinion is to invalidate only a dark green esrog that has no signs of turning yellow (Shulchan Aruch 648:21).  It is possible, and acceptable according to halakha, for one to turn his green-esrog yellow by storing it with an apple.  However, care should be taken, because if an esrog is exposed to an apple for too long, the esrog will turn orange colored and the stem might fall off. 

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