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There is a story I once heard about the Ben Ish Chai examining the only known etrog available in Iraq. Despite the great need for it, he declared the etrog passul for use and no one could fulfill the mitzva on Sukkot.

There are many physical mitzvot. Some of them form the main mitzvot of holidays, such as:

  1. Arba Minim
  2. Matzah
  3. Menorah
  4. Sukkah
  5. Shofar

What does someone do if, for reasons beyond one's control, it is impossible to attain them? Is there any kind of substitutional prayer or other that acknowledges this lack? There must have been communities throughout history, and including today, that dealt with these issues.

I'm familiar with substitutions for less-essential issues (i.e., the Ben Ish Chai Nitzavim 3 recommending washing the hands 40 times if there is no mikva or shower before a chag).

A friend of mine recently told me how, because of the remoteness of his location, he could not attain an etrog. So, without saying a bracha, he used a lemon and shook the "lulav." He knew he wasn't fulfilling a mitzva, but he felt he should at least do something to remind him of that mitzva.

Does anyone know of any customs that address lacking such physical mitzvot?

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Not having a Mikvah is very different from not having a Sofer. –  Double AA Sep 20 '12 at 8:19
    
@DoubleAA: Of course, and I'm not equating the two; I'm familiar with a Polish community without a minyan that gets together to read from a Humash every Shabbat. Their closest mikveh is at least an hour's worth drive, and I don't what they would do without that. But my question is more about supplications that, while not fulfilling the mitzva, at least do something about the void. –  Aryeh Sep 20 '12 at 13:27
    
Wait, are you asking about general supplications when some mitzva is unavailable, or about specific procedures for when there is no lulav or etrog? –  Double AA Sep 20 '12 at 13:41
    
@DoubleAA: Either/or; If there is no lulav/etrog is there anything that can be done (supplications and/or procedures) that would be better than nothing? –  Aryeh Sep 20 '12 at 14:16
    
What's the difference between lulav without a lulav and the tamid offering without a Temple? –  Charles Koppelman Sep 20 '12 at 20:48
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