Bridging The Greatest Gap
Yalkut Reuveni brings from the Zohar:
There are 248 limbs in the body that correspond to the 248 positive commands and there are 365 gidin, sinews, that correspond to the 365 negative commands. There are 365 angels appointed over each of the gidin and Samael, (Saro Shel Eisav and the Yetzer Hara –Yalkut Reuveni) is appointed over the gid hanashe, sciatic nerve. That is why the angel was able to hurt Yaakov there and why we don’t eat it. Just as there are 365 gidin, they correspond to the 365 days of the year. The day that corresponds to gid hanashe and Samael is Tisha B’av. Samael rules on that day, so to speak. Therefore, we fast and don’t eat on that day.
What does this mean?
The sciatic nerve is the sinew that connects the upper body to the lower body. When we think about man he contains a blatant contradiction. His body is full of earthly lusts, while his mind can strive for godliness. How is this reconciled?
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (39a) discusses this exact quandary. A gentile said to Ameimar, “from waste up is ruled by the god named Hormiz and from waste down is ruled by Ahormiz.” Ameimar replied, “if that is the case, why would Ahormiz allow Hormiz to send water through his territory?!” The Vilna Goan explains that the gentile was expressing his view that we have evil drives, from waste down and we have spiritual drives, from the waste up. The rabbi replied that the body is really unified. We must use the body to elevate even the physical to be for the sake of Hashem and it therefore becomes spiritual.
The sciatic nerve is a nerve that bridges the top and bottom halves of the body. This is our mission in life. That is specifically the Saro Shel Eisav hit Yaakov and tried to penetrate. Yaakov won, but walked away limping, showing that the area of target would remain a vulnerability for all generations.
Megaleh Amukos (quoted by Yalkut Reuveni, Balak p. 82) says that Yaakov and Eisav split the months between them. Eisav took Tamuz and Av and Yaakov took Elul and Tishrei. This is a fascinating idea if we think about all the destruction that took place against the Jews in Tamuz and Av. This is in contrast with the great spiritual high that comes after that challenging time. We can them use Elul and Tishrei to achieve even higher levels of avodas Hashem.
On Tisha B’Av, the forces of evil wish to destroy us physically and spiritually. They want to penetrate our sanctity and distract us with physicality. This is the battle with Saro Shel Eisav and where our gid hanashe is the target. When we gird our loins and bridge the gap between our spiritual and physical parts, our efforts are another stone and another brick in the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.