YICHUS IS LIKE THE NUMBER ZERO…
January 6, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1003, 24 Teives, Bitachon Bytes, VaEira

By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg

You can have a ton of zeros, but it only matters if there is a different digit in front of all those zeros.

At its essence, Bitachon intends to instill and internalize within us that Hashem is the sole and true existence. Contemplating this automatically lessens the feeling of one’s own importance, for how can one’s existence be significant in the presence of the omnipresent Hashem. This can shed light on anything which can potentially cause feelings of egotism, as to what the proper perspective on that matter should be.                                                                                                        

One example of the above is found in the issue of pedigree-yichus. Generally, when pedigree is discussed, it is in the context of how great the individual is as a result of his exalted lineage, a conversation which is more boastful than modest. The Bitachon angle on yichus will be one of recognition that while there are advantages to having holy ancestors, no feelings of egotism will result from that realization.                                        

In this week’s parsha the Torah digresses from a discussion of the steps that led up to the eventual geula and talks about the lineage of Moshe and Aharon, in connection to their being chosen to take the Yidden out of Egypt. The Rebbe elucidates1 the account of Moshe and Aharon’s pedigree as being directly connected to the story of their carrying out the redemption, and not just a literary tangent or parenthetical. In fact, their forebears are the very reason for their being chosen to lead Yidden to the geula. When Pharaoh decreed that all boys be thrown into the Nile, Yocheved, the mother of Moshe and Aharon, disobeyed. She actually went so far as to assist the Jewish mothers with their babies, (ותחין את הילדים).  And Amram, the father of Moshe and Aharon, remarried his wife in spite of Pharaoh’s terrible decree to slay all Jewish males.

This was the pedigree of Moshe and Aharon through which they merited to help the Yidden, just as their parents did, by leading them out of Egypt.                                                                                                                   

This explanation not only clarifies the Torah’s seeming digression, to discuss lineage in the midst of recording the happenings of the redemption from Egypt, it also gives us a novel look at yichus. The message of the Torah is not that Moshe was great because his forbears were tzaddikim; rather, Moshe was great because his righteous ancestors bequeathed to him unique qualities and he used them to their fullest. In other words, to the offspring of great Rebbes, pedigree can be a fact of life or it can be a part of who the descendant is. Moshe and Aharon didn’t just have great parents; they also utilized the tremendous quality of caring for others, which they received from their parents, even in the face of adversity. 

This perspective is a very demanding view of yichus. Boasting about one’s ancestry inflates the ego over nothing that the speaker has done. Quite to the contrary, pedigree should bring a person to think about whether he is living up to his great pedigree and utilizes the unique qualities bequeathed to him by his ancestors. This will cause a feeling of bittul and inadequacy, which is more congruent with the path of Bitachon.                                                        

For this reason, there are people2 who seldom, if ever, speak about themselves or of their families from earlier generations. Such speech could easily diminish their self-negation by bringing on an extra dose of pride due to such discussion3.                                                                                                    

The Sar Shalom of Belz4 was once in the company of another great Rebbe who was not a descendant of such noteworthy lineage. This Rebbe felt that the Sar Shalom was acting superior to him because of the Belzer’s great pedigree. Noticing this, the Belzer Rebbe turned to his colleague and asked, “Who is superior, a tzaddik who is born to a pedigreed family or a tzaddik born to a simple family?”                          

The Sar Shalom then answered his own question, “Chazal say that a person is obligated to constantly ask himself, “מתי יגיעו מעשי למעשה אבותי אברהם יצחק ויעקב – when will my deeds achieve the level of my fathers’ deeds?” Bearing this in mind, if one does have an exalted lineage, and follows this directive of always comparing his actions to those of his forefathers, that will bring to a feeling of bittul and self-negation

On this note we will now share two noteworthy anecdotes which reflect this message. When the Alter Rebbe convinced the Mitteler Rebbe to take the Tzemach Tzedek as a son-in-law, each side of the Shidduch followed the custom of showing off his pedigree5.                                                      

The Mitteler Rebbe said, “I have a great pedigree because I have a father who is a Rebbe.” (As we know, the Alter Rebbe’s father R’ Baruch was a great tzaddik but was not a Rebbe.)                                            

The Alter Rebbe responded, “I have a greater pedigree because I have a son who is a Rebbe.” (As we know, none of the Mitteler Rebbe’s sons succeeded him as a Rebbe.)                                               

The Mitteler Rebbe took the conventional path of understanding pedigree; the Alter Rebbe responded with not just factual pedigree, but real substantial pedigree. He was zocheh to instill the holiness of Rebbe into one of his own sons, which can only happen through toiling and infusing the proper k’dusha into his son.                                                                                                                                                  

The holy Ruzhiner was once conversing with another tzaddik about whose pedigree was greater. When the other tzaddik finished enumerating all of his holy ancestors, the Ruzhiner replied, “Our pedigree works in the opposite direction. My Zeide the Mezritcher Maggid had a great son, Reb Avraham the Malach, and he had a holy son, Reb Sholom, who was a big tzaddik, and Reb Sholom had me, and I have a son the tzaddik of Sadigur.”                                                                                                                                                   

The message is clear. The bittul way, and thus the Bitachon view, of pedigree is that it should demand of us more Torah, more yiras Shamayim, more fulfillment of Mitzvos, all of which will cause that as the generations continue to pass, the effect of the pedigree will remain and only get stronger and not ch”v diminish (due to lack of action as a result of haughtiness).

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com.

 

(Endnotes)

1)  לקו”ש חט”ז ע’ 63.

2)  לדוגמא ר’ ניסן נעמאנאוו, ראה הספר ר’ ניסן עמ’ 30.

3)  ראה שער הבטחון פרק ד’ ופירוש הבטחון … בחלק החמישי.

4)  סיפורי חסידים, תורה סי’ 151.

5)  ספה”ש תרפ”ז ע’ 238, וראה ‘מגדל עוז’ לר”י מונדשיין ע’ קצ”ד.

 

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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