Netzavim - Passing Yichus
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Yichus - laudable ancestry - is a funny thing.
Some are born to it while others marry into it.
It's not something you can buy and it isn't something that requires work in
order to keep - once you have it, it's yours.
You can spoil it for yourself and for others but you are the one who loses
out the most, not the others.
Yet,it can never be lost forever.
Others can enhance it for you although you do nothing to deserve it.
Yet, you still reap the gain and benefit of it.
Best of all, those who do not have their own can create some, but not for
themselves, only for others.
Moshe wanted to be remembered. Not as someone special or unique but as a
servant of G-d. The most humble of all people upon the earth wanted
anonymity. He wished to be a part of the crowd. He wanted to be but one of
the many who served G-d and believed in His love. Yet, he was chosen. He
alone was selected from the annals of human history to teach the undisguised
word of G-d.
Only one generation merited seeing the man Moshe and hearing his voice. Only
one generation witnessed the overt manifestation of the Creator's absolute
mastery and justice. What were all the subsequent generations supposed to do?
How could they be expected to feel as committed and devoted as the nation
that stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and heard G-d's words from His most
Most of us think of Yichus from the position of the recipient not the
initiator. We are the children of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah,
Yakov, Rachel, and Leah. We are the recipients of their unique
accomplishments and reputations. We did nothing to earn it, yet it defines
who we are. Unfortunately, many of those who have it do not know that they
have it, or care that they have it. That means that as important as Yichus
might be to the recipients its practical value is only as great as the
recipient's awareness and caring. Understanding Yichus demands that we begin
seeing Yichus from the position of the initiator, the one who really cares
about it, rather than the recipient who may care less.
As Moshe began his final words to the Bnai Yisroel the question of Yichus was
foremost in his mind. Moshe was the product of Yichus and also the creator of
his own Yichus. He knew that the amazing experiences of the 40 years in the
desert were the foundation of the nation's identity and Yichus. It was what
made them unique and apart from all the other nations of the world.
Therefore, it needed to be preserved in the written word, but even more so,
in the hearts and minds of the nation. It was incumbent upon the children of
the Exodus to embrace their own Yichus so that they could be the progenitors
of Yichus for their own children and grandchildren.
The transmission of Yichus is far more the responsibility of the initiator
than the recipient. The initiator must engender in his recipients a sense of
pride in the past and personal commitment for the present and future. The
actions of the fathers are a foretelling for their children because it is the
actions of the fathers that guarantee the passage of Yichus to their
Everyone knows that personal Yichus is the most important Yichus of all.
However, every new beginning is really a reconnecting with a Yichus that
extends back to the Avos, Imahos, and Moshe Rabbeinu. Personal Yichus simply
picks up where previous generations left off.
Gathered in the Plains of Moab within sight of the Promised Land, Moshe
summoned the entire assembly. His call was all embracing and inclusive, from
the heads of the Tribes to the water-carriers and woodchoppers. He addressed
a population of men, women, and children uniquely diverse and independent,
yet sharing a collective Yichus and destiny. As a nation they had been molded
apart from Egypt and independent of the outside world. However, they were the
Sons of Jacob and they were not independent of each other.
"Each of you serves an essential job in the collective service of G-d. You
cannot do it alone. You cannot give over the full Yichus without each other.
We are a nation and it was to a nation that G-d gave His Torah. From the
greatest to the lowest, from the most scholarly to the simplest, each of you
has a job and each of you is responsible to the collective future of our
people. We have all gathered to accept G-d's covenant and be His nation. So
it was promised to our fore fathers and so will you witness the completion of
that promise. However, far more important than being the fulfillment of past
promises is your main job as guarantors of the future."
Every year Parshas Nitzavim challenges us to recommit ourselves to the
covenant in the Plains of Moab. Every year we must ask ourselves if we are
doing what it takes to guarantee the transmission of Yichus to the next
generation. The challenge is to us not to them. Who we are and what we do
must be consistent with our expectations for our children; otherwise you can
be certain that they will be just like us.
It is not only with you that G-d establishes this covenant. You are also
accepting on behalf of all the generations yet to come..." (29:14)
Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.