Thursday, September 19, 2002

The Hunchback of Etrogim

We got our lulav and etrog yesterday. We used to make a big deal and go down to Mea Shearim, linger over some 50 stands or, while we fingered the lulavs, palmed the etrogs, and sniffed the myrtle. It was all so sexual. Then we got old and lazy. And we answered the phone.

Immediately after Rosh Hashana, the neighborhood boys start calling. Would you like to order your arba minim (your lulav and etrog)? I'll deliver, two days before sukkot. One guy includes a case. Another will come by with willows too. 80 shekels for a basic set. Or 90. Early bird gets the worm, which means that we went with the kid down the courtyard rather than the shul member's son who called first last year. Snooze you lose.

So the set arrives last night. I eagerly open the kosher-certified sealed box containing my etrog. One of the disadvantages to the lazy method is you can't handle the merchandise in advance. Last year, we got the most perfect etrog. Pear shaped, evenly-bumpy, fit in the hand like a good computer mouse (now you know where my head is at).

This year I open the box with equal anticipation. But my new seller doesn't have the same stash. Or maybe it was just bad luck. His supplier's style is more squalid. I take out of the box this lopsided, plug-ugly citron that I have since nicknamed the Hunchback of Etrogim. It's kosher, sure - the stem is there and all, but this sad specimen looks like the runt of a litter straight out of 102 Dalmations meets Rabbi Quasimodo. Good thing first day sukkot is on Shabbat this year...we can keep our little prodigy to ourselves.

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