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(בראשית כד ב)

שים נא ידך תחת ירכי

ופירש רש"י תחת ירכי לְפִי שֶׁהַנִּשְׁבָּע צָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּטוֹל בְּיָדוֹ חֵפֶץ שֶׁל מִצְוָה, כְּגוֹן סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, אוֹ תְּפִילִין (שבועות ל"ח), וְהַמִּילָה הָיְתָה מִצְוָה רִאשׁוֹנָה לוֹ, וּבָאָה לוֹ עַל יְדֵי צַעַר וְהָיְתָה חֲבִיבָה עָלָיו וּנְטִלָהּ:

תחת ירכי UNDER MY THIGH — because whoever takes an oath must take in his hand some sacred object. such as a Scroll of the Law or Tefillin (Shevuot 38b). As circumcision was the first commandment given to him and became his only through much pain it was consequently dear to him and therefore he selected this as the object upon which to take the oath (Genesis Rabbah 59:8).

Question: Avraham avinu was commanded by Hashem "לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

“Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you."

This was before Hashem gave Avraham the Mitzvah of milah

Why didn't Avraham consider that the first commandment given to him?

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    Maybe it has to do with the nature of what is a "mitzvah" -- not every imperative verb said to an individual, especially one satisfied at that moment, is tantamount to a commandment to a people ("lech, red", "daber") – rosends May 22 '18 at 12:23
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In my online version of this Rashi it says in parentheses after the Rashi you quote:

(ור"ל מה שלא אמר תחת ירכך, והיה לו להשביע העבד במילתו, לפי ששל אברהם היתה ראשונה לו קודם מילת העבד וק"ל)

I.e. - Abraham's preferred using his own Milah, and not the servant's Milah, because Abraham's Milah was done first, before he circumcised the servants, and therefore it was more precious to him.

  • How does this answer the question? – Alex May 22 '18 at 13:26
  • @Alex He's redefining ראשונה לו as "done first to him (Abraham, as opposed to his servant)" and not as Abraham's first commandment ever received – b a May 22 '18 at 14:34
  • @ba But what is the basis for that, and who is the author of the parenthetical remark? – Alex May 22 '18 at 16:44
  • @Alex The basis could well be the difficulty arising from this question, couldn't it? Regarding authorship see here – b a May 22 '18 at 16:47
  • @ba I wasn't referring to the motivational basis; I was referring to the textual/logical basis. Saying that והמילה היתה מצוה ראשונה לו means that his circumcision was before his servant's circumcision is quite a stretchy reading, and why would that be something relevant to choosing what object to grasp? – Alex May 22 '18 at 17:02
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Rashi states that a chefetz shel mitzvah, a mitzvah object, must be grasped. When he says that circumcision was the first mitzvah, he might simply mean that it is the first mitzvah that involves a chefetz shel mitzvah that can be grasped. A Lech Lecha cannot be grasped.

  • A "BRIS MILAH" cannot either be grasped. If LECH_LECHA was indeed a mitzvah then the leg/ foot would be the limb with which the mitzvah was done. – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 22 '18 at 20:20
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore A leg/foot is incidental to the mitzvah. – Alex May 22 '18 at 21:15
  • Not incidental at all. Any mitzvah performed with any limb gives "chiyus" to that limb. Thus the mitzvah of lech-lecha was the source of chiyus for Avraham Avinu's legs. – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 22 '18 at 21:20
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    @RibbisRabbiAndMore Then he could have had the servant grab his hand which performed the circumcision. Clearly, there is a distinction between a body part that happens to be used to perform a mitzvah, and a body part which is the subject of the mitzvah itself. – Alex May 22 '18 at 21:45
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    Let me rephrase: What does the Sefer Charedim's methodology of relating limbs to mitzvos have to do with the Rashi under discussion? – Alex May 22 '18 at 22:43

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