Rav Aharon Lichtenstein on Gid HaNasheh by Ari Krische


In this week’s Parashah, Ya’akov has an altercation with a man who damages his Gid HaNasheh, sciatic nerve (a nerve running the length of the leg). As a result of this incident, the Bnei Yisrael are commanded never to eat of this nerve. The Pasuk writes, “Al Kein Lo Yochilu VeNei Yisrael Et Gid HaNasheh,” “Therefore the Bnei Yisrael shall not eat the sciatic nerve” (BeReishit 32:33). Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah insists that, even though this Pasuk prohibits Gid HaNasheh, and God prohibited living flesh (Eiver Min HaChai) to No’ach, and Hashem commanded Avraham to circumcise himself, the source for these Mitzvot is not BeReishit, but rather the revelation at Har Sinai.

But does it really matter where the source for a Mitzvah is? A Mitzvah is a Mitzvah, isn’t it? Rav Lichtenstein says no; where a Mitzvah comes from matters. If we start observing the Mitzvot because they were commanded to our forefathers, we are observing Mitzvot in isolation. No Mitzvah has any bearing on another because they were commanded to different people, at different times, under different circumstances. However, when we observe a Mitzvah commanded at Sinai the perfect whole that is Hashem’s Torah can be sensed because the commandment exists within the broader framework of Halacha. This is why Rambam felt the need to make his point, and this holds true in life generally. One particular aspect of the world may be fascinating on its own, but when viewed in context of the world as a whole it takes on far deeper significance.

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