My Mesorah

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to actually find my place on the chain from rebbe to talmid. I then thought it might be of general interest, just to demonstrate how we can actually trace a contemporary Jew’s exposure of the Torah to back to Moshe Rabbeinu.

This is just a chain, artificially restricting each student to only one teacher. So, for example, regardless of how much the thought of the Rambam or the Ramchal might have influenced later generations, they do not appear. A complete graph of the flow of the mesorah would probably take so much time, it would replace the study of the mesorah itself. Because of the winnowing effect of following only one track, you can see as the list progresses how we narrow down to Ashkenaz, then Lithuania, then particular streams within Lithuania that influenced my rebbe.

An extreme instance: There were two academies in Bavel, in the cities of Sura and Pumbedisa (modern day Falluja). Each had their own Rosh Yeshiva, thus there were two ge’onim in each generation. However, my own stream is via Ashkenaz, and thus Rabbeinu Gershom Me’or haGolah (#94). He studied under Rav Sherira and Rav Hai Gaon, and so the Ashkenazi chain runs through Pumbedisa more than Sura. Do not take the absence of the ge’onei Sura in this list to mean their Torah didn’t reach us!

Similarly, how can we talk of the Torah of R’ Chaim Brisker (#126a) without the Rambam? But the Rambam wasn’t part of the single line of primary rabbanim within Ashkenaz. And so he too isn’t on this list.

The chain of mesorah follows that of the Rambam for the 40 generations from Moshe Rabeinu to Rav Ashi, the compiler of the gemara.

Dates up to that of the zugos are according to the Seder Olam.


1. Moshe (1392-1272 BCE, Har Sinai – 1312 BCE)


2. Yehoshua (1354-1244 BCE)
3. Pinechus
4. Eli (929 BCE)
5. Shemu’el (889 BCE)
6. David haMelekh (876 BCE)
7. Achiah (800 BCE)
8. Eliyahu (870-726 BCE)
9. Elishah (717 BCE)
10. Yehoyada (695 BCE)
11. Zekhariah (680 BCE)
12. Hoshea (575 BCE)
13. Amos (560 BCE)
14. Yeshaiah (548 BCE)
15. Mikhah (560 BCE)
16. Yoel (510 BCE)
17. Nachum (510 BCE)
18. Chavaquq (510 BCE)
19. Tzefaniah (460 BCE)
20. Yirmiyahu (462 BCE)

Anshei Keneses haGedolah

21. Barukh (347 BCE)
22. Ezra (348 BCE)
23. Shim’on haTzadiq (400-300 BCE)
24. Antignus ish Socho (305 BCE)


25. Yosi ben Yoezer & Yosef ben Yochanon (280 BCE)
26. Yehoshua ben Prachya & Nitai haArbelli (243 BCE)
27. Yehuda ben Tabai & Shimon ben Shetach (198 BCE)
28. Shmaya & Avtalyon (140 BCE)
29. Hillel & Shammai (40 BCE)


30. Rabban Shim’on (10 BCE)
31. Rabban Gamliel haZaqein (20 CE)
32. Rav Shim’on ben Gamliel (50)
33. Rabban Gamliel (90)
34. Rabban Shim’on (140)
35. Rabbi Yehuda haNasi (Rebbe) (135-219)


36. Rav (160-248), Shemuel, & Rabbi Yochanon (230)
37. Rav Huna (270)
38. Rabbah (310)
39. Rava (270-350)
40. Rav Ashi (420)


41. Rafram (443)
42. Rav Sama berei deRava (476)
43. Rav Yosi (514)
44. Rav Simonia
45. Rav Ravoi miRov (589)
46. Mar Chanan miAshkaya (608)
47. Rav Mari

Gaonim (Pumbedisa)

We do not have much literature from the ge’onim. This list is therefore more dense, not just giving rebbe to talmid, which I could not yet establish, but listing each ga’on. It is unlikely that each gaon studied under their immediate predecessor and were not already established teachers in their own right before becoming head of the academy. Odds are many of these ge’onim studied under someone two or three links ahead of him on this list, and some of the ge’onim here do not actually represent distinct generations.

However, having too many connections doesn’t disturb the primary point, that of tracing one Orthodox Jew’s perception of the Torah back to Sinai.

48. Rav Chana Gaon, 49. Mar Rav Rava, 50. Rav Busai (689), 51. Mar Rav Huna Mari, 52. Mar Rav Chiyah miMishan, 53. Mar Ravyah, 54. Mar Rav Natronai, 55. Mar Rav Yebuda (739), 56. Mar Rav Yosef (748), 57. Mar Rav Shmuel, 58. Mar Rav Natroi Kahana, 59. Mar Rav Avrohom Kahana (761), 60. Mar Rav Dodai, 61. Rav Chananya (771), 62. Rav Malka (773), 63. Mar Rav Rava, 64. Mar Rav Shinoi (782), 65. Mar Rav Chaninah Gaon Kahana (785), 66. Mar Rav Huna Mar haLevi (788), 67. Mar Rav Menasheh (796), 68. Mar Rav Yeshaya haLevi (804), 69. Mar Rav Kahanah Gaon (797), 70. Mar Rav Yosef, 71. Mar Rav Ibomai Gaon (814), 72. Mar Rav Yosef, 73. Mar Rav Avrohom, 74. Mar Rav Yosef (834), 75. Mar Rav Yitzchak (839), 76. Mar Rav Yosef (841), 77. Mar Rav Poltoi (858), 78. Mar Rav Achai Kahana, 79. Mar Rav Menachem (860), 80. Mar Rav Matisyahu (869), 81. Rav Mar Abba, 82. Mar Rav Tzemach Gaon (891), 83. Mar Rav Hai Gaon (897), 84. Mar Rav Kimoi Gaon (905), 85. Mar Rav Yehuda (917), 86. Mar Rav Mevasser Kahana Gaon (926), 87. Rav Kohen Tzedek (935), 88. Mar Rav Tzemach Gaon (937), 89. Rav Chaninah Gaon (943), 90. Mar Rav Aharon haKohen (959), 91. Mar Rav Nechemiah (968), 92. Rav Sherirah Gaon (1006), 93. Rav Hai Gaon (939-1038)

Rishonim (Ashkenaz)

94. Rav Gershom (Rabbeinu Gershom Meor haGolah) (1040)
95. Rav Yaakov ben Yakar (Ri ben Yaqar) (1064)
96. Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) (1040-1105)
97. R’ Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam) (1174)
98. R’ Yaakov ben Meir (Rabbenu Tam) (1171)
99. R’ Eliezer miMetz (Re’eim) (1175)
100. R’ Elazar Rokeach (1238)
101. R’ Yitzchak miVienna (Ohr Zaruah)
102. Rav Meir (Maharam miRutenberg) (1293)
103. R’ Yitzchak miDuren (Shaarei Durah)
104. R’ Alexander Zusiein haKohen (Agudah) (1348)
105. R’ Meir bar Baruch haLevi (1390)
106. R’ Sholom miNeustadt
107. R’ Yaakov Moelin (Maharil) (1427)
108. R’ Yisroel Isserlein (Terumas haDeshen) (1460)
109. R’ Tavoli
110. Rabbi Yaakov Margolies (1501)
111. Rabbi Yaakov Pollak (1530)

Early Achronim

112. Rabbi Sholom Shachna (1558)
113. Rabbi Moshe Isserles (Rama) (1530-1572)
114. Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Katz (1614)
115. Rabbi Naftoli Hirsch ben Pesachya (1650)
116. Rabbi Moshe Rivkas (Be’er Hagolah) (1671)
117. Rabbi Avraham Gombiner (1682)
118. Rabbi Moshe Kramer (1688)
119. Rabbi Eliyahu Chassid (1710)
120. Rabbi Yissachar Ber (1740)
121. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman (1765)

Late Achronim  (Litta)

122. Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (Vilna Gaon) (1720-1797)
123. Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner (1749-1821)
At this point I want to trace both sides of a split. These strands are spun back together by Rav Shimon Shkop, but both sides represent “Ism”s that deeply shaped Rav Shimon Shkop’s derekh:
Volzhin – Brisk
124a. Rabbi Yitzchok Volozhiner (Reb Itzeleh Volozhiner (1848)
125a. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Beis haLevi) (1820-1892)
126a. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (Reb Chaim Brisker) (1853-1918)
Mussar – Telz
124b. Rav Yosef Zundel Salanter (Reb Zundel Salant) (1786-1866)
125b. Rav Yisrael Lipkin (Reb Yisrael Salanter) (1810-1883)
126b. Rav Eliezer Gordon (Reb Lazer Gordon) (1841-1910)
127. Rav Shimon Shkop (1860-1939)


128. Rav Dovid Lifshitz (Sulvaker Rav) (1906-1993)
129. Micha Berger

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No Responses

  1. Huh. I just came across


    and visually more impressively


    So my late Uncle Dick was a 7th-generation talmid of Kant, who was 3 generations from Leibniz.

    I’ve seen similar databases for math and CS PhDs.

  2. Richard Wisan, that is. Also a school-friend Jeremy Avigad is on the tree, but by a very different path. You have to go all the way back to Trendelenburg, only two generations out from Kant, to find a common philosophical ancestor. Which I suppose makes them 4th cousins twice removed.

    Not having a specific person I consider “my rebbe”, since I didn’t go sit in yeshiva after HS, I don’t know how I would relate to that.

  3. levi@israel says:

    i did not get this issue of Rambam and chain-even if you belong to some certan chain it is impossible to ignore the opinion of greatest hahamim of Torah

    • micha says:

      My point was that finding my own line adds a sense of confidence and trust in how I do things, the reality that my tradition really is the mesorah Moshe got at Sinai. (Or at least one way of looking at it.) That is not to be confused with the totality of the Torah received.

      To put it another way:
      It is one thing to know that one can trace one’s own lifestyle back to the giving of the Torah.
      That’s not enough to know what that lifestyle actually is.
      It’s not even enough to know every possible path back to Sinai. Just an existence proof that there is one.

  4. Curious says:

    Why there is no date by the second Navi, Pinechus?There are over 300 missing years.

    • micha says:

      This is an example of why I wrote that I was following the Rambam for the first 40 generations. I couldn’t make it all work out, so I appealed to authority.

      In this case, Chazal say that the Pinechas of the desert generation is the same Pinechas who failed to prevent the battle of the Pilegesh beGiv’ah, meaning that he could well have lived from Yehoshua all the way to Shemuel. (This long life is part of the Zohar’s discussion that he is Eliyahu.) But that kind of fantastical medrash is just the type of story the Rambam says only fools and heretics (out to make the Torah look silly) take as a historical claim. Which is why, as I opened, I have no idea how to explain it myself, and instead am blindly following the Rambam.

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