One of the largest Chasidic sects looks like it will be faced with significant difficulties this Succot, after almost the entire harvest of the etrog they exclusively use has failed.
Yanover (Genoa) etrogim, from Italy’s Calabria region, are used by many Jews as part of their fulfilment of the Biblical commandment to take the Four Species together -a palm branch, an etrog, myrtle and willow - but they are used exclusively by Lubavitch (Chabad) Chasidim.
However, after days of sub-zero temperatures in the region in January, over four fifths of this year’s etrog crop have reportedly failed.
Rabbi Moshe Lazar, Chabad’s shliach (emissary) in Milan, told Chabad.org, the news and information website of the Lubavitch movement, that he had just come from the fields and “there is nothing to cut at all”.
Every rebbe of the Lubavitch dynasty, from the first, the Baal HaTanyah, to the last, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, insisted on the importance of their Chasidim using a Yanover Etrog. Chabad Chasidim have travelled to Calabria to monitor the harvest for the last 70 years.
However, the future of Etrog growing in the region now seems unclear. Many trees have reportedly been destroyed, while others which were damaged have needed to be severely pruned. It could take years for either these trees to grow back or newly planted trees to produce fruit.
High quality Yanover etrogim have been known to be sold for well over £200 in the past – but this Succot, the severe shortage may mean that those who are determined, come what may, to use that strand of the fruit to fulfil the Biblical commandment, may need to steel themselves to pay a much higher price.