The Gemara discusses the Eder tree (aleph-daled-resh), and Rashi comments that he does not know what this tree is. Are there any further sources on this? as an esrog enthusiast, let me propose it may be the esrog - Hadar - after all:
1. Aleph can sometimes substitute for Heh
2. The Gemara explains the word idra as indicating a tree that can last for generations - and the Esrog tree has generations of fruit on it at once.
3. we also learned in Sukkah 35a that Hadar is cognate with the Greek work idur (=hydra) indicating the need for water.
4. Rashi also discusses the eder tree (or grass) as something that can repel insects - esrogim were also used as insect repellents.
Zaide Reuven's Esrog Farm
That is an interesting theory, David. The Gemara may have used the term "Adar" instead of "Esrog" as a play on words, emphasizing the "strength" and long tree-life of the Esrog. (According to the Aruch, our Gemara is using the term "Adar" instead of the usual word "Tzedakah" for a similar reason - see Insights.) I could not find support for your suggestion in any of the commentaries, yet.
Do you have a source that shows Esrogim were used as insect repellents?
Kollel Iyun Hadaf
In the question I submitted, I forgot to add the following excerpt from my book on the Esrog which critiques the assertion that the "pri etz hadar" is the Cedar cone. This is relevant since, in the background notes to Beitzah 15, there is a source that identifies the eder tree as a type of Cedar.
Identity of the Esrog as the Pri Etz Hadar Fruit of the Goodly Tree The Torah is not explicit in stating the identity of any of the Four Species. Indeed, according to the Midrash, even the wise King Solomon was unable to identify them from the Torah . However, according to the Rambam (Maimonides) and others, there was an Oral Jewish tradition identifying the fruit of the "Goodly Tree" (Leviticus 23:40) as the Esrog-citron since the giving of the Law to Moses in 2448 (c 1313BCE). Other opinions hold that the Esrog only became known to the Jews during their Babylonian exile, and was brought back to Israel in the time of the Second Temple .
Distancing the Jews from the Esrog still further are theories that ESROG, "Goodly Tree" is none other than the Pinus or Cedrus deodara tree, called dar, in Sanskrit, and that when the verse refers to the fruit of a beautiful tree, it merely means any beautiful Pri, or fruit. Indeed some lexicographers believe that the Greek word kitron is a corruption of the ancient Greek word kedris meaning cedar cone. This confusion was carried over into Latin with the similar terms citrus and cedrus. From Latin the confusion has spread to French (C?drat), Spanish (Cidra), and German (Zedratzitrone). Modern Italian uses the same word (Cedro) for the cedar and the citron tree. Indeed, Maimonides, in his Treatises on Poisons , mentions, in separate paragraphs both the Esrog and kitran, an oil extracted from the cedar tree.
This argument goes well beyond linguistics or an appreciation of the similarity in shape and color of the immature fruit of the citron and the cedar cone . Tolkowsky has gone as far as to propose that Pri Etz Hadar of the Bible is not the citron, but the cedar cone, already venerated by the Assyrians and used by Babylonians in a ritual >involving water libation (Succot also involves water libation). The cone of Cedrus deodara ("tree of God"), Tolkowsky argues, became known to the Jews during their Babylonian exile, who then incorporated it into their own ritual, but only in the time of Simon the Maccabee (136 BCE) who substituted the citron for the cedar cone in order to distance the Jewish ritual from the idolatrous Greek festivities of Bacchus occurring at the same time and also involving cedar cones.
Tolkowsky buttresses his claim further by highlighting the reverence that Jewish literature holds for the cedar tree. In making his argument he speculates that the linguistic confusion originated as a result of the switch from cedar-cone to citron in Jewish ritual. It is possible that cause and effect should be reversed: rather than say that the similarity of the terms for citrus and cedar is a result of a ritualistic switch, perhaps the theory of the cedar-citron only arises because of a need to rationalize a linguistic oddity. This would then allow Tolkowsky to come to terms with his own observation that "as to the reasons that prompted [Simon] to dare to enforce such a drastic innovation in the time-honoured ritual of a fanatically conservative people, these will probably never be known with certainty." .
Shalom, David! Thanks for the interesting article you shared with us. I am not including it with the public mailing because it is not in my interest to spread news of Tolkowsky's attack on the Jewish tradition. The Mesorah that the Rambam cites is not his suggestion alone, but it is supported by every Midrash and Tannaitic work that we know of on the subject.
Besides, the suggestion that Pri Etz Hadar is a pine cone (what you called "cedar cone") does not sound very plausible; it is not edible, nor do we find any biblical references to the fruit of the cedar - let alone, to it having any particular holiness. This, aside from the point he himself made -- it is extremely unlikely that a leader of a later generation would be able to convince every Jew in the world to change a traditional yearly practice, such that no mention of the original practice would be preserved.
Dear Rabbi Kornfeld,
Thank you for your reply.
The references for the use of esrog as a repellant are from my book on the Esrog.
Theophrastes of Eresos, c.. 310BCE. Enquiry into Plants and Minor Works on Odors and Weather Signs. Translated by Sir Arthur Hort. Loeb Classical Library, London 1916.
Rojas E, Scorza JV. The use of lemon oil as a sandfly repellent. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 85;803, 1991; cited in Martindale: The Extra Pharmacopoeia, Pharmaceutical Press, London, 1993, 30th Edition, pp1382. - who speak of use of an oil extract fmro the leaves of the citron (Citrus medica) as a sandfly repellant.
I have a source for the use of esrog as a snake repellant which IYH will go in my 3rd edition:
I am grateful (4/12/2003) to Mr. Stanley Beck of Amsterdam, formerly of Surinam, and a descendent of Abrabanel. He told me that in Surinam one could cut pieces of Etrog (or Lemon) and place them in the pocket, or rub the juice on the skin to repel snakes when trekking through the jungle. He personally saw snakes recoil at the approach of someone who had done this. He also told me that among the natives of Surinam it was a superstition to bury an Etrog or lemon at the four corners of one's property to repel demons as well as snakes. The only snake that was not affected by this was the Anaconda. In thinking about the repulsion of the snake for the Etrog I am reminded of the story of how Eve ate the fruit (= Etrog) of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Perhaps part of the punishment of the snake for having enticed Eve to eat the fruit was an eternal revulsion of the Etrog and its kin, thus its usefulness as a snake repellant.
Thank you once again.
Zaide Reuven's Esrog Farm