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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Posts Tagged ‘kashrut’

Mitzvah 3 – Why Jews don’t eat the thigh-vein

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Section 613

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to
their order of appearance in the Torah.

Mitzvah #3:Not to eat gid-hanasheh (the thigh-vein)

In the story of Yakov he wrestles with a mysterious man who confronts him in the
middle of the night while he awaits a reunion with his brother Esav. At dawn,
unable to escape, the man wounds Yakov in the thigh, and we read “therefore the
members of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh-vein” (Breshit
32:33). Although we read of this commandment in the Yakov story, the tradition
considers that the commandment is issued at Mt. Sinai along with all the other
mitzvot.

Although we can classify this particular mitzvah as belonging to the mitzvot
of kashrut, it is a mitzvah with a particular message. In the midrash, we
learn that the mysterious wrestler is none other than the guardian angel of
Esav. Rabbinic Judaism, striving to rebuild the Jewish people after the
destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, uses this mitzvah to deliver a message of
hope and faith against the power of the Roman empire. Rome is considered to be
the descendant of Esav. Yakov defeated Esav’s guardian angel, therefore Israel
will not perish, but out-last and overcome Rome.

The mitzvah of not eating the sinew of the thigh-vein is the first mitzvah
that applies to women as well as to men, and it is applicable in all times and
places. The specifics of this observance differ from place to place. In general,
Jewish communities refrain from eating any part of the hindquarters, where the
inner and outer sinew are located. In places where meat is not readily
obtainable, the sinews are removed and then the hindquarter is used as food.
There are other veins, arteries and tendons that are also removed, but we’ll
come to those in due (mitzvah) order.

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