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Why Purchase Expensive Items for Jewish Holidays?

Why Purchase Expensive Items for Jewish Holidays?

Photo: Gilabrand
Photo: Gilabrand

Dear Rabbi,

I don’t get it. Someone in the synagogue told me that he spent over a hundred dollars on his lulav and etrog set for the holiday of Sukkot.

Surely, we cannot condone the spending of so much money on a citrus fruit and some branches and leaves? Shouldn’t we give that money to charity instead?


I just had this same thought when one of my congregants told me about the new iPhone he had purchased. I thought: wouldn’t it be enough to have a simple phone without a touch screen, and even, G‑d forbid, without a high-quality video camera?

In our personal lives, we often choose to spend immense amounts of money on things that are not essential to daily life. Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived without iPhones and BlackBerries, and rumor has it many lived without a telephone altogether.

Our sages teach that we should do our utmost to fulfill G‑d’s commandments in a beautiful way, meaning that the actual item that we use to do the commandment should look nice.

In the words of Maimonides:

Everything given for the sake of G‑d, who is good, should be of the most attractive and highest quality.

If one builds a house of prayer, it should be more attractive than his own dwelling. If he feeds a hungry person, he should feed him from the best and most tasty foods of his table. If he clothes one who is naked, he should clothe him with his attractive garments.

If he consecrates something, he should consecrate the best of his possessions. As the verse states (Leviticus 3:16), “All of the superior quality should be given to G‑d.”1

Therefore, the etrog used on Sukkot should look as nice as possible (see The Complete “Four Kinds” Owner’s Manual).

Fulfilling a mitzvah isn’t about discharging an obligation; rather, it’s an opportunity to strive for excellence in your relationship with G‑d. Yes, it is possible to purchase an etrog (the most expensive item of the four kinds) for twenty dollars or less; however, many try to buy the best etrog, the most beautiful one they can get their hands on, so they can fulfill G‑d’s will in the nicest way they can.

What about charity? I decided that this month I will purchase fewer apps for my iPhone, and donate the money to charity instead.


Mishneh Torah, Hil. Issurei Mizbe’ach 7:11.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the editor of Beit Chabad, the Hebrew edition of
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M NY September 26, 2013

For those wrestling with the cost of lulav, etrog, etc. I recommend the movie, "Ushpizin'! Priceless.
I watch it every year as part of Succoth. The story just delights me. Reply

Robert Berkovits Eastport Maryland September 19, 2013

Gelt Giving Give up the Gelt. The more expensive the citron, the greater the profit margin. It keeps farmers employed. You should not only try to keep up with the Jaffes, you should try to best them. Always an upward spiral of coveting. Reply

Steven Shmuel Zeigman White City, OR via September 30, 2012

G-d measures intentions Be sure of your intention!

When a poor Jew buys the best religious item or gives the most offering they can afford, even though it may not be the best or the most there is, it is more meaningful to G-d then when a rich Jew buys the very best religous item or gives the most there is.

The personal sacrifice of the poor Jew often has a greater intention then a rich Jew just showing off their wealth. So being pure in your intention is more important to G-d then anything else. Reply

Jack September 28, 2012

Expensive Items for Holidays Att: Mendy Kaminker: You write about iphone vs simple telephone.. Yet at the end of your comments, you wrote that you will purchase fewer apps for your iphone.
When I was growing up, our family did not have a phone until I was 11 years old. Before that if an important call was made, the bartender downstairs came up two flights of stairs to tell her that there was a call for her. Many of the families in our neighborhood shared the same experience. Somehow, all of us survived. Reply

Shmuel Shimshoni Hadera Israel, Select your state September 28, 2012

Spending for the holidays and festivals When I shop for any items to be used on Shabbatot, Holidays and Festivals I don't ask the price. It makes me feel rich to pay whatever is asked of me for those items.
And when I feel rich it makes me feel good that I'm treating the Almighty to a festive celebration.
Hag Samayiah Reply

Anonymous Buenos Aires, Argentina September 27, 2012

Spending money.. Yesterday I also wondered why to spend so much money in Iom Kippur pre fast and post fast dinners ( I do not live in the US). Answer is, hey, It is Iom Kippur, Well, I have the money, it is a way to give importance to your judaism and keep traditions. If I am not for myself....
I also give charity throughout the year ,anyway Reply

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