Monday, May 25, 2009

Yom haMeyuchas and Reflected Glory

Today, the 2nd of Sivan, is a special day on the calendar: Yom haMeyuchas יום המיוחס.

"Yichus יחוס" is colloquially used in reference to aristocratic lineage, so that the name “Yom haMeyuchas” ends up with bizarre translations. I have seen renderings like Day of the Noble, for example, from people who ought to know better.

But yichus actually means “association” or “relationship.” (Hence the word יחסית - relatively.) Someone with "good yichus" is someone who has good associates/relations. And a day that is "meyuchas" is a day with special associates.

Indeed, this day has nothing inherently special. Although some do identify possible value for this day itself based on the run-up to Sinai and its status in the Omer, at bottom the 2nd of Sivan is simply the day after Rosh Chodesh and the day before the 3 days of preparation for the presentation of the Torah, and that association is what confers upon it special status.

This explanation is consistent with the gemara (Taanit 17b-18b) which talks about special days we don’t fast or don’t eulogize, just because those days precede or follow key days on the Jewish calendar. These days themselves don’t have any celebratory characteristics, but the status of their neighbors spills over to them.

Part of me feels like this concept of Reflected Glory is a bad thing, especially when it feels like the whole world has gone Yom haMeyuchas. We clamor for autographs from benchwarming ballplayers, we drop the names of former classmates who have gone on to greatness, we talk about great-uncles and third-cousins who have just published a hit novel or appear in a new movie, we go to great lengths to see and be seen.

But there is also a positive to hanging around in good company, and perhaps this is the message of Yom haMeyuchas: Choose good friends, associates who will influence you positively. It is not the pursuit of reflected glory; rather, it is the pursuit of personal glory, through glorious role models. (Cf. Avot 4:14, 4:15, and 6:9, as well as R' Elazar ben Arach in Shabbat 147b.)

Avraham and Sarah can move to the edge of the desert, set up their inn (Sotah 10a-b) and be a model for the world. For the rest of us, though, there are times when we need to be a Yom haMeyuchas, learning from others and so developing ourselves.

Yom haMeyuchas Sameach!


  1. I like your blog If I had to chose between Yichus and Nachus... Nachus (my grandchildren) wins.