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Are You a Descendant of King David?
A Look at Rabbinic Sources

by David Einsiedler

Page 2

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Before we review more sources, we need to be aware that possession of one of the family names mentioned in this article does not of itself mean that you are a descendant of King David. For instance:

a) Let's assume that, of two Horowitz brothers, one married a (presumed) descendant of the Davidic line, the other one did not. The children of the first one may claim such descent; the children of his brother may not -- even through all have the same Horowitz name. Thus the name is an indication of a possibility, a lead to be researched.

b) When Jews in Russia were ordered to take family names, some took the name Ginzburg. Baron David Ginzburg of the famous rabbinic family objected to this, and sued to stop it. He lost. The court declared that he did not have a copyright on the name, and that anyone could use this (and any other name). Many Ginzburgs, Horowitzes, Landaus, and others with prestigious names are not necessarily descendants of prestigious families.

Of the family names listed in the sources we want to distinguish between primary families -- those specifically mentioned in the sources as having descended from the Davidic family, and derivative families -- those descended from the primary families. The primary families are usually rabbinic families; the derivative families may be rabbinic and many may not be. You do not have to be a descendant of a rabbinic family to find that you may be a Davidic descendant.

To get an idea of the whole spectrum of the Davidic line let's start with the Bible. If you look up Chronicles I-3 you will get the names of King David's family and descendants, about 33 generations, to the sons of Elioenai, Akkub, and Jonathan. (See also Encyclopaedia Judaica 5:1342 showing The Genealogy of the House of David.)

The list is repeated and continued another 27 generations (32, according to another interpretation of the names) in Toledot Mishpachot Ginzburg, by David Maggid (St. Petersburg, 1899) to Hai Gaon (939-1038), head of the Talmudic Academy of Pumbedita. The variation in the count is due to different sources. One of the sources quoted here is Seder Olam Zuta (The Small Order of the World) (Mantua, 1514), a chronicle composed in the eighth century. It begins with Adam and ends with the descendants of King David to Mar Zutra III, about 520 C.E. Another one is Seder Ha-Dorot (Order of the Generation), by Jehiel Heilprin (mentioned previously), a chronicle-history with more detail. It ends with the time of Isaiah Horowitz, Moses Isserles, and the MaHaRaL of Prague (the first half of the 17th century). The Ginzburg saga tells of some family members who are descendants of the MaHaRaL of Prague, others of Saul Wahl, both descendants of King David. Some of the derivative families are: Itingen, Lichtenstadt, Roffe, Winkler, Ginzburger, and Paprosh.

Moshe Yair Weinstock, the author of Tiferet Beit David (The Glory of the House of David) (Jerusalem, 1968), listed all generations from Adam to Judah Lowe the Elder, then linked them to the dynasty of Samuel Shmelke HaLevi Horowitz, ABD Nikolsburg, and that of this brother Pinchas Horowitz, ABD Frankfurt am Main ("Haflaa"). Their descendants include the Biedermans, Adlers, Rotenbergs, Bernsteins, and Mintzbergs, to name a few.

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