Dynastic Succession

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The transfer of power and authority from father to son throughout the generations. Jewish history knows of royal dynasties, especially the dynasty of King David from whom all the kings of Judah were descended in direct succession. The Messiah is thought of as a descendant of David who will reign as the legitimate scion of this royal house. The dynasties of the Maccabees and of Herod were viewed somewhat ambiguously by the later Rabbis. The Princes in Palestine during the first two centuries ce claimed descent from Hillel: Rabban Gamaliel I; his son, Simeon ben Gamaliel; Rabban Gamaliel II; his son, Simeon ben Gamaliel II; and his son, Rabbi Judah the Prince.

In later Hasidism, dynasties of Rebbes proliferated. During the nineteenth century, the comparison between the Rebbe and a king was taken almost literally, in the use of the term ‘the Rebbe's court’, for instance. There were often dynastic rivalries as to which son would inherit his father's ‘throne’ and much ‘palace’ intrigue. It was certainly not unknown for the sons of a Rebbe, when he died, to set themselves up as Rebbes in their own right, each claiming to be the true heir of the departed saint. And there were a number of instances of the Hasidim appointing a regent where the heir apparent was too young to assume office when his father died.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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