24. Vaera I - YICHUS

RASHI'S COMMENT on the second verse of our sidrah has perplexed other commentaries of the Chumash.

God speaks to Moses saying, "And I appeared unto Abraham , unto Isaac, and unto Jacob" (Exod. 6:3). Whereupon Rashi remarks, vaera el ha-avot, "And I appeared unto the fathers." The question is what does Rashi achieve with these words? Anyone who reads the verse knows that the reference is to the Patriarchs of our people, for the language of the text is simple, direct and explicit.

The explanation offered by Rabbi Meir Premishlyaner, famed Hassidic Rebbe, has an important message for all. He believes that Rashi wanted to stress the important role of each of the Patriarchs in the founding of our people. Isaac was a father not merely because he was the son of Abraham, but because he himself was a spiritual and intellectual giant. Jacob was a Patriarch not simply because he was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham but because he himself was a towering figure. Each was an av --a founder and builder of Am Yisrael in his own right, because of his own righteousness, qualities of character and devotion to lofty tenets of integrity, kindness and service.

The sages refer to Abraham as the amud hachessed, the foundation of kindness, to Isaac as the amud ha-avodah, as the foundation of service and sacrifice, and to Jacob as the amud ha-torah, as the foundation of Torah. Without these three foundations, they say, the world cannot exist.

The story is told that when the great Rabbi Yonassan Eibshitz was a young lad, his parents were very aggravated because of the loss in a fire of a cherished document which testified that the family was directly descended, on the paternal side, from King David. Little Yonassan was deeply moved by their grief and tired to console them by saying, "Don't cry and don't worry. I promise to do everything in my power to found a new line that will bring great yichus to our family." And that little boy kept his promise. As, is known, Rabbi Eibshitz is the ancestor of illustrious descendants who brought luster and glory to Israel.

There are unfortunately those whose only desire is to cash in on yichus. They wish to derive benefits from being descendants of great people. There are the einiklach of outstanding tzadikim and scholars who themselves contribute nothing to the welfare of their people, but only claim benefits which they feel is due to them because of noble descent. True yichus, however, is when one is himself an av --father and founder of a good and noble family; when he himself serves as an example of learning, piety, dedication to principles of benevolence and integrity to children and children's children.

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