The tracing of one’s yichus, his lineage and Family Tree, play a significant role in the lives of many people especially for those who possess big and famous yichus. It weighs heavily in their decisions of marriage, choice of mechutanim, which Chassidus one belongs to, which shul one davens at, and even which beracha one gets under the chuppah. Many yichuses relate to mitzvos in the Torah for instance if one’s father was a Kohen or Levi then he as well will have those same privileges such as being first to be called to the Torah, Birkas Kohanim, washing the Kohen’s hands etc. In the times of the Bais Hamikdash, his yichus enabled him to do the avodah and sing etc.
Rabbe Yochanan says Yoma 85b: Whoever is a talmid chacham, and his son is a talmid chacham, and his grandson is a talmid chacham, the Torah will never again stop from his descendants. We see, therefore, that yichus does matter. Just to give you an incredible illustration of this concept take the word אינעקעל which translates as grandchild. Ask anyone and he will tell you that the source of this word is in the Yiddish Language. However, I was once told that its origin is in the passuk והסנה איננו אכל that as Moshe Rabeinu was gazing at the miraculous sight of the burning bush, he realized that the bush איננו אכל was never consumed. Therefore an anikel is a testimony that the lineage is not going to be terminated.
One might ask why is his grandchild a testimony to his continuity more than his son. Secondly, there have been instances even when a grandson is born that the lineage of the grandfather terminates. The profundity of this concept is based on this gemarah of Yumah. An Ainikel does not testify on physical continuity but rather on Torah continuity as the passuk is talking about the סנה which symbolized Har Sinai. The vision of the סנה on fire was on the future Har Sinai upon where the Torah was given. If a grandfather and father and son all see each other learning Torah with a diligence then there is a chazakah that such a lineage will continue down all the generations. There is no guarantee in ruchniyus just because one has yichus alone. He has to infuse the yichus of the past into the reality of his present. For only then does the zechus of the yichus continue into the future. Yichus can be compared to 20 zeros. It is worthless unless each person puts a one in front of them. A Jew must endeavor to align himself with his forebears and only by doing so can he activate and draw from all their strengths which they invested in the future generations.
This week’s parsha also speaks about Yichus. The Yalkut Shimoni Bamidbar 1 writes
בשעה שקבלו ישראל את התורה נתקנאו אומות העולם בהן מה ראו להתקרב יותר מן האומות, סתם פיהן הקב”ה אמר להן הביאו לי ספר יוחסין שלכם שנאמר הבו לה’ משפחות עמים כשם שבני מביאין, ויתילדו על משפחותם, לכך מנאם בראש הספר הזה אחד המצות, אלה המצות אשר צוה ה’ את משה אל בני ישראל בהר סיני, ואחר כך וידבר ה’ במדבר סיני שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל שלא זכו ליטול את התורה אלא בשביל היוחסין שלהן,
At the time of giving the Torah, the gentiles were jealous and inquired what was so special of the Jewish Nation that they alone received the Torah? Hashem tells them to bring their sefer of Yichus and that will be self – explanatory. They have yichus as the passuk says (Bamidbar 1,18 Rashi) ויתילדו על משפחותם they established their genealogy according to their families according to their fathers’ household by number of their names. This is why the Torah counts Yisrael here after the mitzvos (the last passuk in sefer Vayikrah) in order to convey that the only reason why Yisrael merited the Torah is because of their pure lineage. This is what the passuk means (Tehillim 96,7) הבו לה’ משפחות עמים bring to me your yichus lineage.
However striving to attain that number one that precedes the zeros is not applauded by the Noam Elimelech and the Bnei Yissaschar and in fact is strongly discouraged. Rav Elimelech from Liszhinsk writes in his first Torah on Parshas Emor דבר אל אהרון ואל בניו וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל ולא יחללו את שם קדשי אשר הם מקדישים לי They should separate from the Korbanos of Kodshim during the days of their tumah and not profane my name (Rashi). The Rebbe Elimelech interprets this passuk as follows.
דהנה יש ב’ גווני צדיקים יש צדיקים שנתקדשו מאבותיהם שהיו קדושי ויריאים ושלימים והתורה מחזרת על אכסניא שלה ויש ויש צדיקים הנקראיס נזירים ע”ש פרישותם מעצמם אעפ”י שהם בני עניי הדעת והצדיקים ההם לא במהרה הם יכולים ליפול ממדרגתם הקדוש’ כי אין להם על מה שיסמוכו והם נבנעים בדעתם ומשגיחים על עצמם בעינא פקיחא תמיד בלי הפסק אבל הצדיקים הקדושים שנתקדשו מאבותם שהם מלאי תורה ומצות מחמת זכות אבותם מסייעתם, לפעמים יכולים לבא ע”י זה פני’ וגדלות מזה ויפלו מהר ממדרגתם. וזהו אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן פי’ רמז לאותן צדיקים אשר הם בני צדיקי’ והם נקראים בני אהרן תזהיר אותם מאד שלא יעלה על מחשבתם כלל יחוס אבותיהם רק ינזרו ויפרשו לעצמם פרישות מחדש וזהו דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו וינזרו מקדשי ב”י ר”ל שגם הם יהיו נזירים ופרושים מעצמם וישגיחו על עצמם מאוד ולא ישגיחו על זכות אבותם כדי שלא יבא להם חלילה איזה התנשאות מחמת יתוסיהם ותועבת ה’ כל גבה לב.
There are two types of tzadikim. One who has a lofty yichus and who relies on that yichus. This tzadik was born on top of the mountain of Avodas Hashem. Then there are those tzadikim who were born at the bottom of the mountain however because of their lack of Yichus they toil day and night, they are cautious at every turn lest they fall from their standing and therefore they reached levels way beyond the first type of tzaddik. The born on top of the mountain tzaddik in contrast many times relaxes in his avodah as he looks around at all those who are struggling to climb the mountain which he is already standing on. This automatic superiority in his mind could also cause the tzaddik to become haughty, a middah which Hashem despises.
Therefore the Torah advises the Kohanim the children of Ahron referring to the tzaddik the son of a tzaddik. וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל separate from your holy yichus of ancestors who were tzadikim, because you will tend to rely on them for your ruchniyus which can cause one to have a complacency in his avodah because of which he will suddenly experience a steep fall bringing about a Chillul Hashem.
The Bnei Yissaschar in his Igra D’Kalla on Chumash expounds on the passuk(Bamidbar 1,49)
“והלויים למטה אבותם לא התפקדו בתוכם” יש לרמז שהתורה מלמדת לנו דעת בפסוק הזה לדורות כי נצחיית היא דהנה יש לפעמים בני צדיקים שסבורים שהצדקות תחזור לאכסניא שלה ואינם יגעים לדרכי עבודתו ית”ש וכסבורים כשאפילו לא יתייגעו להסיר מסך הסכלות לשיהיו דבקים בקונם יבוא זה להם בירושה זכות אבותיהם. על זה העידה התורה במקרא קודש הלזה “והלוים למטה אבותם” ר”ל הרוצים שיבוא להם דביקות בירושה ממטה אבותם דלוים מלשון וילוו עליך הפעם ילוה וכו’ לא התפקדו בתוכם לא יזכר ולא יפקד להם הדביקות הזה בתוכיותם ובפנימיותם רק דמיונות שוא ח”ו. ובזה תבין מאמר חז”ל נדרים פא הזהרו בבני עניים שמהן תצא תורה והבן
The Igrah D’Kallah like the Noam Elimelech writes about the two types of tzadikim. Except he goes a step further to say that the tzaddik born on the mountain doesn’t even attempt to put the number one if front of all the zeros for he deceives himself into thinking that it will come to him anyway as an inheritance. הלויים those who want deveikus with Hashem (the word לוי means to accompany), למטה אבותם by inheriting it from their lineage, wake up from your wish full dreams because לא התפקדו בתוכם they will not find such a deposit of ruchniyus by them. This is Chazal’s intention when they say be extra careful with the children of the poor (poverty in ruchniyus and yichus) for from them will come an illustrious Torah. They are the second set of tzadikim who can possibly supersede the Born of the Mountain tzaddik who relies on his ancestors.
Another danger of relying on one’s yichus can be gleaned from the interpretation of the Shlah Hakadosh on the passuk (Vayikrah 26,42)וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב ואת בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכור. Hashem will remember the Bris of our three Avos. This passuk is situated in the middle of the Tochacha the horrific punishment that will come upon Yisrael if they fail to fulfill the Torah and Mitzvos. One would think that this insertion would draw on our behalf enough merit that the punishment will finally come to its end. Yet in the following passuk the curse continues, The land will be bereft of them and the land will be appeased for the Shemittos they didn’t observe while living on the land? The Shelah answers that Yisrael’s yichus to the Avos is mentioned in the midst of the Tochacha as a detriment to us in order to intensify the suffering. You come from such an incredible yichus like your Avos and yet you act in such despicable ways of rejecting Hashem’s decrees! Therefore you deserve even a bigger “patch”.
But how could it be that our zechus Avos is used against us? The answer might be that if we take advantage of our yichus and infuse their ideals and mesiras nefesh in our lives as our reality as well, then the zechus Avos will enhance our own zechusim and avodah. However, if we only rely on our inheritance hoping for the magic wand to come and open up the reservoir of zechusim, then not only that it won’t work to be our advocate but it will become our enemy.
Sometimes we all fall into that trap of not worrying and being extra concerned about how am I raising my family in Yiddishkeit, how is my Shabbos with the mishpacha etc. the complacency sets in because we rely on our inheritance from our parents and grandparents our mesorah we received from them and Baruch Hashem it worked for me and therefore I will continue to transmit the same with little input. Basically we are saying that with such a beautiful yerusha there is no need to upgrade. As the lingo goes if it is not broken don’t fix it. There is one mistake that we are making with this thought process. It might have worked for you in the times that you grew up and in the world and the culture you lived in without cellphones, rampant decadence, and with borders, regulations, and a semblance of morality. Unfortunately, everything above has changed. Our future generation is nestled in a canyon deep within the earth surrounded with earthliness and electric vibrations that chip away daily any remaining fragments left of morality, divinity, and the dignity of Man. Today we must muster up the strength within ourselves to be constantly on guard, innovative in ruchniyus, making Yiddishkeit exciting and geshmak because we are under attack and the present enemy is much stronger, smarter, and luring than the one we battled when we were young. We must be always vigilant and cautious every step of the way not to allow the infiltration of the insanity of the outside into our homes, hearts and minds, as much as we could.
We cannot end without mentioning the most precious yichus that we possess and that is בנים אתם לה’ אלקיכם . If we think of our unique and special relationship with Hashem that alone is enough to pump up and inspire a Yid to fulfill his father’s requests. This is what Shlomo Hamelech tells us (Mishlei 3,11) מוסר ה’ בני אל תמאס that when Hashem gives mussar and affliction to you my son, don’t despise it. However one of the Slonimer Rebbi’s interpreted this to mean מוסר ה’ the mussar of Hashem to Am Yisrael is בני אל תמאס you are my son. Treat that special relationship and cherish it. Don’t do anything inappropriate that would manifest that it is undesirable to you.