Vein of Pain by David Glassberg

(2002/5763)

One of the three Mitzvot in Sefer Bereishit is the prohibition against eating and deriving benefit from the sinew of the thigh-vein, the Gid Hanashe.  This Mitzva, found in this week’s Parsha is seemingly observed due to the fight that occurs between Yaakov and the angel of Esav.  In Perek 31 Pasuk 33 the Torah states: “Al Cain Lo Yochlu Bnai Yisrael Et Gid Hanasheh Asher Al Kaf Hayerech Ad Hayom Hazeh Ki Nagah Bichaf Yerech Yaakov BeGid Hanasheh,” “Therefore the Children of Israel are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip socket to this day, because he struck Jacob’s hip socket on the displaced sinew.”  If this is the reason, however, it is very difficult to understand why just because Yaakov got into a fight and his thigh was injured, all future generations of the Jewish people cannot eat the Gid Hanashe?  How does this fight relate to us today?

            The Sefer Hachinuch offers an insight into the Mitzva and why it still pertains to us even today.  He first writes that the reason we do this Mitzva is not because of this fight between Yaakov and the angel of Esav.  The words “do not eat” are not stated merely by way of narrative; they are rather, like the Gemara in Chullin says, a commandment from God given at Har Sinai.  They are placed here simply to shed light on the reason the Mitzva was given.  This explains why we actually perform the Mitzva: because God said so.  But what is the root or the idea behind this seemingly strange Mitzva?  The Sefer Hachinuch continues to suggest that this Mitzva is an assurance that even though the Jewish people endure constant troubles from the descendants of Esav, we will persevere and the descendants of Esav will fall.  Remembering this Mitzva, and performing it, gives us a guarantee that Mashiach will one day come to redeem the Jewish people.  This Mitzva should serve as a reminder that we should stand firm in our faith forever and eventually the Mashiach will come and rid us of this suffering. 

We find in the Midrash that Yaakov fought with and was injured by Esav’s guardian angel.  This angel wanted to obliterate Yaakov and his descendants; unable to do so, he pained Yaakov and injured his thigh.  While the descendants of Esav wish to destroy us, they cannot; therefore they inflict pain and suffering upon us.  Nevertheless, the Jewish people should not be discouraged.  For just as when Yaakov was injured “Vehu Tzoleah Al Yiraicho,” “And he was limping on his hip” (Perek 33 Pasuk 32) and as the Midrash Rabba states that the sun shone one him to heal him, so too the light of Mashiach will shine upon the Jewish people and relieve them of the troubles they face at the hands of the descendants of Esav.  One can clearly see how relevant this commandment is for us today.  It should be the will of Hashem that the observance of this Mitzva should speed up the coming of Mashiach where the descendants of Esav will no longer torment the Jewish people and there will be Shalom Al Yisrael.

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