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The Unbroken Chain of Torah

From Mt. Sinai to Today

Hashem taught the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu on Mt. Sinai in 1312 BCE. Since then, the knowledge of Torah has been passed from generation to generation by the conferment of semicha, rabbinic ordination. This unbroken chain of tradition has continued for over 3300 years and continues to this day.

The following represents one chain of tradition, an unbroken tradition of Torah learning from the revelation at Sinai through 130 semicha generations to Rabbi Dovid Bendory. In general, the transmission of Torah from one generation to the next is confirmed by the conferment of semicha, though not all the people in this chain had semicha. (Note that a "semicha generation" here is defined as Rabbi-Student, not father-son — thus a "generation" can be as short as a few years and sometimes the "Rabbi" is younger than the "Student." Also note that in some cases — notably Reb Chaim Ozer and the Chofetz Chaim — the indicated "student" received the semicha of the indicated rabbi though he didn't actually learn from him.)

The dates given for each person are either a date of death (single date) or dates of birth and death (two dates). The sources used to develop this chain of tradition are given below.

The Rambam in his hakdama (introduction) to the Mishneh Torah lists the first 40 semicha generations given here, begining from the Revelation on Mt. Sinai and continuing down to Rav Ashi (420 CE). Lawrence Kelemen researched the next 83 semicha generations, from Rav Ashi down to Rav Chaim Voloziner (1749-1821) and verified each link in the chain in at least two independent written sources. (Note: Rav Dovid changed the link between Rav Sharira Gaon and Rabbeinu Gershom Meor HaGolah to go through Rav Hai Gaon (the son of Rav Sharira) rather than through R' Meshulam HaGadol, as Rav Dovid believes there is better support for this chain of tradition.) The final six semicha generations of biographical information — from Rav Chaim Voloziner to Rav Dovid — were compiled by Rav Dovid using various biographical sources including the OU Biographies, Dei'ah VeDibbur, the Jewish Observer, the Shema Yisrael Torah Network, and Tzemach Dovid Biographies of Gedolim. Rav Dovid takes full responsibility for any mistakes in this history and would very much appreciate it if the reader would contact him with any corrections.

See also: The Unbroken Chain by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman
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