Traditionally, Jews use citrons (etrogim), palm fronds, and myrtle and willow branches in the rituals of the holiday of Sukkot, which began Sunday night and continues for seven days. These items are the subject of a 1947 short story by the Nobel prize-winning Hebrew author S. Y. Agnon. The story, newly rendered in English by Jeffrey Saks, begins with a description of Jews shopping for the ritual objects in an Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem:
To witness how precious the mitzvah of etrog is to the Jewish people one need only visit Meah Shearim between [the preceding month of] Elul and Sukkot. That neighborhood, which is like a withered plant all year long, becomes a verdant pleasure garden in that season, with stores full of etrogim, lulavim [palm fronds], and hadasim [myrtle branches]. Jews from all over Jerusalem crowd into those stores, inspecting the etrogim, lulavim, and hadasim, or sharing learned insights about them.
Even the elderly, who never exit their own doorposts all year long, either due to weakness or fear of wasting moments from Torah study, come to purchase an etrog. Because of the importance of this mitzvah, they go to the trouble to select their own etrog—after all, an etrog selected by someone else cannot be compared to one chosen by one’s own hand. These elderly jump from courtyard to courtyard and from shop to shop, with renewed youth and vigor as the shopkeepers run to and fro with boxes full of etrogim, each according to the stature of the customer and the budget he has to spend. In between push young boys with little baskets . . . used to bind the Sukkot species together, beautifying the mitzvah, and beautiful in and of themselves on account of their lovely shape.
More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Jewish holidays, Jewish literature, S. Y. Agnon, Sukkot