By Rabbi Shmuel Wise

Question: Is the gid ha’nasheh considered a food halachically?

A. We dealt with this question on Wednesday’s daf this week (92b). There, Rav made the surprising statement that the main branch of the sciatic nerve itself is not prohibited whatsoever; rather, only the soft and edible offshoots of the gid ha’nasheh are prohibited. Rav argues that since the main stem of the sciatic nerve is as tasteless as wood, it is unreasonable that the Torah issued a prohibition not to eat it. Ulla disagrees and asserts that though the sciatic nerve’s main stem is tasteless, the Torah nonetheless forbade its consumption.

How does Ulla respond to Rav’s point that the main stem is inedible? In the Acharonim we find two approaches. The first approach (Pri Megadim, Chazon Ish) is that, in Ulla’s view, in spite of the fact that gid ha’nasheh is essentially tasteless, the Torah teaches that it is nevertheless classified as a food. The Rogatchover Gaon suggests a different approach. The Rogatchover is dealing with the opinion of R’ Chisda from Monday’s daf (90b) that we burn the gid ha’nasheh of a korban olah on the Mizbeiach. Why isn’t this a violation of the halachah that we may only offer kosher animal parts on the mizbeiach?

The Rogatchover explains that R’ Chisda agrees with Ulla that the gid ha’nasheh prohibition applies to the sciatic nerve’s tasteless main stem and thus gid ha’nasheh is not a prohibited food. Since only non-kosher food is disqualified for the mizbeiach, offering the gid ha’nasheh isn’t an issue. ArtScroll uses a term here which I think is helpful in understanding the Rogatchover’s approach: “ingest.” The prohibition of gid ha’nasheh is not a prohibition against eating a food, but a prohibition against ingesting the gid ha’nasheh part.

The upshot of all of this is that while normally eating prohibitions would only apply to something that is edible in the plain sense of the word, Ulla’s gid ha’nasheh does not conform to this standard. The Torah either taught that this inedible nerve stem is halachically considered a food, or that a person is liable simply for ingesting it, despite the fact that according to halachah he didn’t eat anything. 

Rabbi Wise is maggid shiur of Real Clear Daf, a website and mobile app that offers free audio shiurim and other resources to assist your journey through Shas. He is also the director of Tehillim Together, a mobile app (for iOS and Android) that offers a translated sefer Tehillim and facilitates Tehillim groups. To be a sponsor or to reach Rabbi Wise, please write to rabbiwise@realcleardaf.com or call 855-ASK-RCD-1 (275-7231).

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