During an amicable conversation with one of the guests here tonight, he said to me, “Rabbi, I want you to know that I have known the Chatan and Kallah for many years, and I also know their families. I can state unequivocally that they are two beautiful people and will make a beautiful couple.”

Sitting at the Chatan table during the Kabbalat Panim, I reflected on my friend’s observation and gave it some serious thought. The question that came to my mind is this: What does the term “beautiful” mean? Beauty in general is a relative term which varies according to the eye of the viewer.

As a Rabbi, I began considering where in the Torah one finds the concept of beauty and how our Sages define its meaning.

After a short while, I recalled that in this week’s sidra we are told of the Festivals the Jewish people should celebrate during the course of the year and what unique services are associated with each Festival.

In the seventh month, Tishrei, we celebrate the Festival of Sukkot. The Torah instructs us to take the four species and rejoice with them before Hashem. The Torah describes the first one as follows: “You shall take for yourselves on the first day pri eitz hadar — the fruit of a beautiful tree,” which is popularly defined by our Sages (Sukkah 35a) to mean an etrog — a citron. According to halachah the etrog should be a hadar — a beauty — and many people spend large sums of money to acquire a beautiful etrog. In fact, on the first day of Yom Tov it is common that people show their beautiful etrogim to the Rabbi and to others in the congregation.

Though halachah defines some of the attributes of a beautiful etrog, permit me to share with you some of my thoughts on this matter and their application to a hadar — beautiful — marriage.

According to the Gemara (ibid.) a unique quality of the etrog tree is that “ta’am eitzo upirio shaveh” — “the wood of the tree and the fruit have the same flavor.”

(That is, the majority of the volume of the etrog is taken up by its white inner rind, which is eaten, as the pulp at the core is not significant. The rind which is the main part of the “fruit” — has a bitter taste similar to that of the tree itself. The bitter rind of the lemon also tastes like its tree, but in the case of the lemon it is the tangy pulp that is considered the “fruit.”)

Similarly, true splendor for a Jew is achieved when the taste of the tree (parent) and the fruit (child) is the same. It is the greatest source of pride and feeling of achievement for parents when the children do not merely physically resemble the parents, but aspire to carry on in the image of the parents spiritually as well.

A uniqueness of the etrog fruit is that on the bottom it has an ukatz — the stem by which it is connected to the tree — and on the top a pitom — stem — topped with a shoshanta — rosette blossom. Should one of these fall off, the etrog is no longer considered to be beautiful.

The lesson of the etrog tree is that a beautiful person is one who is connected with the past and who also has accomplishments of his own. A descendant of a fine family, who continues the family tradition, and who does not rest contented with the family’s past glories but goes forth to blossom on his own, is indeed a hadar — a very beautiful person.

The Gemara also states that the etrog is “dar be’ilano meishanah leshanah” — “it dwells on its tree from one year to the next year” (it can be left on the tree for more than one season and remain fresh).

The etrog represents the Jews of ta’am — taste — and rei’ach — aroma — an allusion to Torah and mitzvot (see Midrash Rabbah Vayikra 30:12). The Jew of this category is a hadar — beautiful — when his observance of Torah and mitzvot is throughout the entire year and weathers all seasons. His attachment to Hashem remains firm in good times and in difficult times, in joy and in sorrow, in poverty and in plenty.

To sum it up, my dear Chatan and Kallah, a beautiful couple is one where the fruit, meaning the young new couple, has the same Torah commitment as does the tree — the parents. The young couple is attached to the past and has royal qualities of their own. They continue the family tradition but do not rest contended with the family’s prior glories; rather, they go forth to blossom on their own. Finally, last but not least, the beautiful couple per the Torah definition of beautiful, is one that remains tenaciously attached to Torah under all conditions 24/7 for the 120 years of their married life.

"בן שמנה עשרה לחופה"
“At eighteen marriage” (Avot 5:22)

QUESTION: Where in the Torah is there a hint for this?

ANSWER: Regarding the Kohen Gadol the Torah (Vayikra 21:13) says,“Vehu ishah bivtuleha yikach” — “He shall only marry a woman in her virginity.” The word “vehu” (והוא) is superfluous, and since it has the numerical value of eighteen, it is an allusion that the age of eighteen is a time for man to marry.


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Alternatively, when Hashem created a wife for Adam, He said “Lo tov heyot ha’adam levado” — “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Bereishit 2:18) The word “tov” (טוב) has the numerical value of seventeen. Hashem’s message is that when man concludes seventeen years and is entering his eighteenth year, he should stop being alone and find himself a companion.

(לבוש הבוץ וארגמן ריש סי' א')