Introducing the Rashi Escape Room!



OneBefore themes are an 'Escape Room-ization" of the discoveries Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull made when researching his family’s place in a noble lineage. Dr. Paull had to go back generating by generation, toiling to uncover a family tree composed of many illustrious names.

He found that he descended from the great and holy Tzaddik Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, whose own lineage included the Biblical and Talmudic commentator (bold added for emphasis) Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhak Tzarfati of Troyes, now widely known by the acronym "Rashi."

Back to Rashi and Beyond

We will explore this line of descent, which takes us back more than a millennium, to the Kalonymos family, who are believed to belong to the Royal House of King David. The Kalonymides left Babylon around the 8th century and settled in Italy, then moved to the Rhineland and France in the 9th or 10th century. Then, once again uprooting themselves, they moved to Germany.

They played a leading role in the development of Jewish learning in Germany and Northern France, producing brilliant scholars such as Rabbi Samuel HaHasid and his son Rabbi Judah HaHasid.

Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak Tzarfati of Troyes, was the grandson of Yitzchak HaHasid Kalonymus, as well as Rabbi Gamliel Hazaken, who reputedly descends from the Royal House of David. Rashi is the author of the first comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud and the Tanach. His commentaries are found in all printed editions of the Talmud, and most printed editions of the Torah. His name is known even among young children, for his work is used as the first explanation of the Torah’s text.

Rashi’s daughter Miriam married Rabbi Yehuda Ben Natan (Rivan). This marriage connected the Tzarfati and Treves rabbinical lineages. Down the line of the Treves lineage came Rabbi Matisyahu Treves (1323-1387), who not only held office as the chief rabbi of Paris, but was officially appointed as the religious head of all the communities of France by King Charles V.

Rabbi TMatisyahu's daughter married Rabbi Samuel Speyer, thus attaching the Treves and Shapiro rabbinical lines.


The origin of the name Shapiro is from the city of Speyer in the Rhineland. The city of Speyer is one of the three Jewish communities in the Rhine that were infamously ravaged and destroyed in brutal attacks during the first crusade, and then later restored. The Shapiro name and its variations has been in use by this prestigious rabbinic family for many centuries, long before most Ashkenazi Jews began acquiring family names.

Rabbi Samuel Speyer, the son-in-law of Rabbi Matisyahu Treves, was in fact the most famous scholar from Speyer. His son, Rabbi Solomon Spira, was the Av Beit Din (presiding rabbi) of Heilbron and Landau in Bavaria, and is taken to be the progenitor of the Shapiro Rabbinic lineage. The Shapiro dynasty was filled with many spiritual giants, such as Rabbi Natan Nata Spira of Grodno, his grandson, Rabbi Natan Nata Spira of Krakow, the famous Kabbalist (mystic) known as the Megaleh Amukos, and the saintly and renowned Reb Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz.

The daughter of Reb Pinchas of Koretz married Rabbi Samuel Polansky, bringing the future Polonsky descendants of this union into the exalted Shapiro lineage. Thus concludes Dr. Paull’s line of ancestry in his connection to Reb Pinchas of Koretz, Rashi, and everyone prior and in between.

Although genealogy can seem at times detailed and confusing, it has a certain magnetism, for the connections that are discovered are fascinating. To think that Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull, once completely oblivious about his past, has discovered such an intertwined web of Rabbinic dynasties of which he finds himself a part of, is refreshing both for the mind and heart!

A Different Type of Illustrious

This incredible "interconnectedness" that genealogy highlights can sometimes be quite humorous. There has been a recently revived, and at first glance outlandish rumor, regarding the Queen of England. The claim goes that the Queen Elizabeth is descended from the Prophet Muhammad and it is gaining an increased interest in the Middle East.

In March Al-Ousboue, a Moroccan newspaper, traced Queen Elizabeth’s lineage going back 43 generations. The paper showed her bloodline running though the Earl of Cambridge, across medieval Spain, all the way to Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. The Queen's Islamic pedigree is predicated on a Muslim princess, Zaida, who ended up in the Christian court of Alfonso VI after fleeing the Berber assault on her hometown of Seville. She converted to Christianity, changed her name to Isabella, and bore Alfonso VI a son, one of whose descendants later became known as the Earl of Cambridge.


In this and Dr. Paull’s story, we see the vast and far reaching threads that weave together our pasts and remind us of the amazing secretes hidden in our genes!

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