Parashat Vayishlach: Molding our National Character

[Tal Chermon p. 80]

During Yaakov's struggle with the angel, Yaakov's hip was dislocated, and based on this, it is forbidden to eat this displaced sinew, i.e. the sciatic nerve and its branches (Bereshit 32:35). Strange! Because once upon a time Yaakov's thigh was dislocated, we are forbidden to eat this part of the animal for all generation? Are the mitzvot milestones of our family's medical history?
The obligation to observe mitzvot began when we were commanded at Mt. Sinai through Moshe Rabbenu and not from the days of our Forefathers. [This fact has halachic implications, whether a person who eats the sciatic nerve of a non-kosher animal has violated one or two prohibitions (Chullin 100b-101b).] "It was taught at Sinai but written 'in its place,' i.e. it was mentioned in conjunction with the historical event to indicate the reason for the subsequent prohibition (Chullin 7:6). The Gemara proves this fact from the verse that states, "therefore the Children of Israel and not the Children of Yaakov refrain from eating the sciatic nerve" (Bereshit 32:32). We were only called "the Children of Israel" beginning at Sinai. The Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah (ibid.) wrote: "Take note of a fundamental principle which is contained in this mishnah which states that: 'it [the sciatic nerve] was forbidden to be eaten from Sinai onwards.' This proves that all the prohibitions from which we refrain and all the commands which we observe are kept because G-d commanded us through Moshe Rabbenu at Mt. Sinai, and not on account of a Divine command to any earlier prophet….So we refrain from eating the sciatic nerve not because it was prohibited from the time of Yaakov Avinu, but because we were so commanded through Moshe Rabbenu."
It is true that we learn the mitzvot from Moshe Rabbenu, but we received our character traits from the Forefathers (Pirkei Avot 5:23). Our National traits come from our Forefathers. Hashem chose us from all the nations. What this means is that He created us as a special Nation with the qualities needed for us to perform our historic task. "I have formed this Nation for Myself so they might declare My praise" (Yeshayahu 43:21). These qualities, however, were only potential and needed to be actualized through national historical events. This process began with Avraham, who is described as one of Hashem's five special possessions which, each in its own way, advance the goals of Creation (Pirkei Avot 6:9). It continued through Yitzchak, Yaakov and finally in the iron furnace of Egypt where the molding of the Jewish national character was completed. The Torah given on Mt. Sinai explicitly revealed the hidden character that existed in the Jewish soul which has its source in our Forefathers.