Toward the end of last week’s Torah portion we read about an amazing individual named Pinchas. Single-handedly he put an end to the devastating plague that had taken 24,000 lives in retribution for the wanton immorality raging between the Jewish men and Moabite and Midianite women. It went so far that even some of the most prominent Jewish families were involved.

Before looking into this week’s reading, one would expect that in consideration of his zealous braveness and tremendous accomplishment, Pinchas would receive a medal of honor and be given a hero’s parade. However, Rashi’s commentary (25:11) indicates that it wasn’t exactly so and quite surprisingly the opposite took place. All Pinchas received for his altruism was ridicule and character assassination.

People were deriding Pinchas because of his yichus — pedigree. His paternal lineage derived from Yitro the High Priest of Midian. Pinchas’ father married Yitro’s daughter so he was ridiculed as being the grandson of one who fattened calves for offerings to an idol.

He obviously did not deserve such abuse, and actually Hashem rewarded Pinchas handsomely by granting him eternal priesthood.

Perhaps the following story concerning yichus will give an insight as to what Hashem sought to accomplish with this award.

It is related that when Rabbi DovBer the Maggid Mezritch was a young boy of 5 or 6 years, he once came home from cheider and saw his house burning down and his mother crying bitterly. To comfort her he said, “Mommy, please don’t cry, Hashem will give us a bigger, nicer home.”

His mother replied, “Berele, I am not crying because of our home, but because of our document of ancestry, which describes our beautiful family tree. Now, because of the fire, we no longer have it.”

Upon hearing this, young Berele said, “Even this is not a reason to cry: if our old yichus letter was destroyed, with G‑d’s help, a new yichus will start with me.”

With the appointment of Pinchas to priesthood, Hashem was sending a poignant message to the people who mocked Pinchas’ yichus.

While yichus is something that we should cherish, we must not simply live off the “royalties” of yichus, but add new greatness to our families.

Hashem gave Pinchas what we can call “yichus atzmo” — self (own) pedigree. There are some people whose only desire is to cash in on yichus. They wish to derive benefits from being descendants of great people. True yichus, however, is being the founder of a good and noble family which serves as an example to his progeny. Thus, Hashem said regarding the award He gave him, “And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal priesthood.” The chain of yichus would start with him.

They tell a story of a son of a prominent chassid whose spiritual level was far remote from that of his father. Once he visited his father’s Rebbe. On a piece of paper he wrote his name and the name of his father and what he is seeking with this visit. The Rebbe read the note and lifted his eyes and asked the young man, “Ver biz’tu?” — “Who are you?” Thinking that the Rebbe didn’t understand his writing, he began to say “I am the son of so and so who was one of prominent Chassidim, etc.” Again the Rebbe looked at him and asked “Ver biz’tu?” Somewhat amazed he began to tell the Rebbe more details about his family who were all prominent Chassidim. The Rebbe looked and smiled, “This I already heard from you, and I knew it all before you came here; my question is Ver biz’tu? — Who are you? Don’t tell me your yichus. This is not you. Tell me who you are: are you a ne’er-do-well, or a living link on the family chain?

To all those who were not impressed with Pinchas’ yichus, Hashem said, “Don’t reflect on his past; his claim to fame is his own yichus: his own accomplishments.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, don’t let the subject of yichus or the lack of it be an issue between you. Always bear in mind that Adam and Chavah, the first married couple, never discussed or debated yichus since both were entirely created by Hashem. In the same way, you also have that yichus equally. The main thing is for you to strive to create a “yichus document” where you will not be at the end of the list, but rather at the top. Always remember that yichus is like a zero, it has value only when there is a “one” in front of it. Mazal Tov and much success in your endeavors to build a beautiful home which will be a trailblazer in the community for Torah, service of Hashem and acts of kindness.

"מצא אשה מצא טוב - ומוצא אני מר ממות את האשה"
“One who finds a wife has found goodness” (Proverbs 18:22) “And I have discovered more bitter than death, the woman.” (Ecclesiastes 7:26)

QUESTION: How can the two statements be reconciled?

ANSWER: The word “ish” — “man” (איש) has the numerical value of 311. The word “ishah” — “woman” (אשה) has the numerical value of 306. This indicates that the woman should consider the husband the head of the household and play a subordinate role. The word “ha’ishah” — “the woman” (האשה) has the numerical value of 311 (the same as ish).

Thus King Shlomo is saying, if one has found ishah — a wife — whose numerical (306)value is less than his, then he has found good. However, if she insists on being ha’ishah — the same as him (311) and refuses to recognize his leadership role, then life for him will, unfortunately, be more bitter than death.

(מרהש"א יבמות ס"ג ע"א)