Produce harvested in the dead of night, smuggled and sold for high prices under the radar of authorities. Warehouses burglarized. Tourists hiding the good stuff in suitcases and getting found out by customs.
No, this isn’t a story of drug rings, but rather of lulavs and etrogs, the plant species waved during synagogue services on Sukkot, the festival that starts tomorrow night.
How naïve we were! Last week, we reported with some surprise, revelations that black market lulavs were being smuggled into Israel. Now, it seems that lulav fraud doesn’t stop with smuggling.
The Chief Rabbinate has put out notices in synagogues and public locations warning people to beware of lulavs whose tips have become split and which have subsequently been glued together. Rabbis differ on whether such a lulav may be used to recite the lulav blessing on Sukkot, as required by Jewish law.
The Chief Rabbinate’s notices say that if traders are selling “glued” lulavs, they can’t pass them off as normal ones as they currently do, and must make “full disclosure” to customers. Read about the warning here.
In the Mishnah on the subject of lulav and etrog, the species blessed on the upcoming festival of Sukkot, there’s a statement that one may not fulfill the mitzva of the lulav with a stolen lulav (palm branch). Well that’s largely been academic, as there isn’t much of a black market for lulavs and etrogs…. or so we thought.
But earlier this week, customs officials at Ben Gurion International Airport seized 300 smuggled etrogim, which were lacking the necessary Agriculture Ministry clearance and which were being brought into the country without being declared to customs officials. As this article reports, 200 shofars were also seized by customs officials.