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Gid Ha'nasheh - the Nerve of Forgetfulness

Nerve of Forgetfulness

Further Thoughts on Parashat Vayishlach...

by John J. Parsons

From our Torah this week (Vayishlach) we read: "This is why the people of Israel do not eat "gid ha'nasheh" - the sinew that passes along the hip socket - because the Angel struck Jacob's hip at its socket" (Gen. 32:32). Some of the sages associate this sinew with the carnal nature, with forces of earthiness and bodily desire, and that it why God wounded Jacob there. Others note that the term gid ha'nasheh (גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה) literally means "nerve (or sinew) of forgetfulness," from the root word nashah (נָשָׁה) meaning to "forget" (see Gen. 41:51). Perhaps the prohibition not to eat this part of an animal was meant to symbolize that we must forget the carnal ways of our past to move forward in faith (Phil. 3:13-14).

One who is proud and haughty is like one who denies the existence of the LORD, as it is written: "And your heart will become haughty (וְרָם לְבָבֶךָ) and you shall forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the house of slavery" (Deut. 8:14). Note that the Hebrew word for "forget" (i.e., shakhan: שָׁכַח) can mean to wither (ξηραίνω) and become useless (John 15:6, James 1:11). As it is written in Psalm 137:5, "If I forget you (אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ), Jerusalem let my right hand wither (תִּשְׁכַּח)." Therefore we see that pride is the original sin itself, denying the very First Commandment itself: "I am the LORD thy God (אָנכִי יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ) who brought you out of the house of slavery" (Exod. 20:2). Exalting the ego by "forgetting" about the LORD - that is, by suppressing the truth of His reality, power, and glory -  invariably leads to inward withering. Just as the ego attempts to "puff itself up" and to enlarge itself, so forgetting about God leads to a corresponding withering of soul, a diminution of heart. This is yet another example of the spiritual principle: "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" (Mark 9:35; Matt. 20:25-26).

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