Curb Your Yichus

Yichus is a big deal. In shidduchim, it’s up there on the question list, right after what detergent you use to wash the shabbos tablecloth and whether she uses an electric or standard toothbrush. (Electric might indicate she’s careful about hygiene and health and therefore will be a good mother, but then again it might just mean she’s too lazy to move her hand in a circular motion and will be the kind of mother who sits on the couch and makes her infant children cook for her, whipping them with two belts tied together so she doesn’t have to get up from the couch. And you always thought those sort of questions had no value, didn’t you?)

The questions must be asked; is yichus a valid question? Is frum society valid in it’s assumptions that past ancestral performance indicates future decisions and abilities? Or is it just another way to marginalize and divide religious Jews further into social classes and castes? Is the very fact that I would bring it up an indicator of my own lack of worthy yichus? Some would say yes. Most people don’t read my blog (anymore) and therefore are caught between ignorance and apathy. So I’ll answer for those people too: yes.

During the off hours of my yeshiva summer this year I tried to research my genealogy. Armed with a folder full of scanned pictures from my fathers family and a three thousand credit international phone card I annoyed various relatives for hours attempting to put names to faces and put faces in order of marriage and children. Rather than finding a heimish genealogy to boast about in Brooklyn I found the exact opposite – I’m around a sixth to an eighth not even Jewish, ancestrally speaking.

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

I'm not Jewish. But I married one. Three cheers for matrilineal descent!

A few days into my research my dorm-mate from across the hall came to check on my progress. Not yet realizing how shameful it was, I told him the facts of what I’d found. I thought it was interesting, learning about my family so many generations back. Luckily he put me straight. First he ascertained that no, I hadn’t found any great rabbis amongst my ancestors yet, then he explained how his father had hired a professional to go back to the old countries and plot their families illustrious line back hundreds of years, uncovering a great many rabbis and community leaders. I wasn’t jealous, because luckily it proved my point. Your yichus is nice for what it is, but it has no bearing on the type of person you might be. My friend for example, skipped afternoon seder regularly to play video games and find unsecured wi-fi. I’m no saint, but at least I know I don’t have a thousand years of rabbis staring down disapprovingly if I do it.

And I even managed to avoid the shidduch problems because I found a girl who is more interested in who I am than who my ancestors were. Me: 1 Society: 0.

(In fact, greatness is rarely passed down. Most gedolai yisroel of the past didn’t have grandchildren who followed in their footsteps to such great heights. I discussed this with one of my rabbis who theorized that maybe the shadow cast by most fathers was too large for their children to live up to. Our modern day lineages of rabbi fathers to rabbi sons is largely taken from the chassidim who were the first to create royal courts and dynasties.)

16 Responses to “Curb Your Yichus”

  1. Yichus and illness and attitude, s’all the same to the society we live in. Personally, I think all our “defects” narrow down the field considerably and gets rid of all the yentas we’re not interested in anyway.

  2. And to think I had someone like you in my house. You stole something while you were here, didn’t you.

  3. Your right, Yichus shouldn’t be a deciding factor. I was actually reading an abridged story of how they did shidduchim in the olden days, actually with the Bais Haleivi. At first he had criterias that the girl should be from a rich family and with good Yichus and all that. But every girl he was told about wasn’t good enough for him. Then one man Chatzkel was a shadchan and decided he had a good Shidduch for the Bais Levi, a girl who was the daughter of a baker, and was short and a hunch back. He was worried when the Bais Levi wanted to see her, that he wouldn’t like her. So he set her up in the house facing a window behind a table, standing on a stool kneading bread, so this way she appeared average height and didn’t look like a hunch back. The Bais Haleivi agreed and they got married.

    Though of course this is an extreme story, and seems a bit deceiving, but the point that your yichus shouldn’t play into effect. There are so many stories of people being the son/daughter of poor, simple people and then becoming great people on their own.

    Actually only yesterday did I show my chosson (gotta come up with a nickname for him) that my great grand father wrote a sefer, and that we have a family tree dating back to Adam Harishon, which is cool.

    Also, you might want to take a look at Geni it might help you with your family research.

  4. I remember reading that one of the reasons why David was meant to be king and not Shaul was because David came from a “murky” background and Shaul’s background was too perfect. God wanted the king of Israel to be able to understand what it’s like to be a , for lack of a better phrase, normal human being.

  5. My lineage is tainted too, half my second cousins arent even jewish

  6. I see your half of second cousins and raise you all of my first cousins.

  7. Moshe: lol

    btw, I hear you told my significant other about our blog meet up at your house, lol

  8. Yah, so if he lives nearby, you now got someone to walk you home Friday night so come over. I promise no honey. 😉

  9. Moshe: o, that’s what you told him, that makes more sense, I was wondering, cause he said something about walking over and honey, and I had no clue…oysh

    lol, were actually gonna look for somewhere to live in your area, so if you hear of anything…

  10. Sure, though from which month you planning on renting.
    We’re looking in jewish press online and print, craigslist and luach, though everything is either too expensive or smaller. Though we’re looking for a 2br and you prob want a 1br, right?

  11. Moshe: transferred to facebook, so we don’t create too much noise here.

  12. My father used to say that Yichus is like potatoes….
    The best part of it is under the ground.

    Another thought I’ve heard is that one should think of Yichus like bunch of zeros… it’s not worth anything unless you yourself put a high number in front of it. That will give the yichus meaning.

  13. B”H

    1. You’re right; that dude was wrong.

    2. “Name dropping is tacky.” *-Batyah bat Shlomo David [my mother]

    3. Genealogy IS cool.

  14. […] you use to wash the shabbos tablecloth and whether she uses an electric or standard toothbrush. Read More » Share and Enjoy:Tags: detergent, right, shidduchim, tablecloth, toothbrush Categories: A Frum […]

  15. The best definition of yichus I’ve come across is: yichus is like a long string of zeroes, and you are the number in front. If you are a positive number, than the total is a very large number, but if you are a zero then the whole is also a zero.

  16. lineageguide…

    […]Curb Your Yichus « A Frum Punk[…]…

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