How was an important oath sworn before the Torah was given? In this week’s Parasha we get an insight. Avraham has his servant Eliezer swear that he will find a wife for Isaac among Avraham’s family back in the old country—Aram Naharaim and the City of Nachor, not among the Canaanites. Avraham asks Eliezer to swear by placing his hand “under Avraham’s thigh.” Beresheet 24:2 and 9. Rashi tells us that “thigh” was a euphemism for the circumcised part of the male body. He explains that one who takes an oath must place his hand on some sacred object like a Torah scroll or tefillin. Of course, there was no Torah then. But because circumcision is a sign of the covenant between God and Avraham, the first mitzvah given to him, and the conduit through which the seed of future generations would be spread, Avraham saw his as a special symbol of sanctity and holiness. He therefore asked Eliezer to take his oath upon it. When an oath is sworn in modern times, a hand is placed on the Bible. Perhaps we should change back, since more people seem to take their bodies more seriously than the Bible. It might be more challenging to administer such oaths in court.
This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Rachel Shere. I would swear to it, but I need both hands to type this blog. 10:00 a.m. downstairs in the Youth Lounge.