BAR 2:02, Jun 1976
Put Your Hand Under My ThighThe Patriarchal Oath
In Genesis 24:29 Abraham has his servant Eliezer put his hand under the Patriarchs thigh to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth that the servant will not arrange a marriage for Abrahams son Isaac with a Canaanite woman. Similarly, in Genesis 47:2931 the dying Patriarch Jacob has his son Joseph swear to him that he will bury Jacob not in Egypt, but alongside Jacobs own parents in the Cave of Machpelah; and the oath-taking ritual again calls for putting a hand under the Patriarchs thigh.
Talmudic tradition1 takes these verses to indicate that the oath was sworn while the circumcised membrum of the Patriarch was held in hand, and derives from this interpretation the rule that all Jewish oaths must be sworn while some ritual object is held in hand. Ordinary people must hold a Torah scroll; scholars may hold any ritual object.