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The g'mara on Pesachim 62b says (Soncino translation):

Rami the son of Rab Judah said: Since the day that the Book of Genealogies was hidden, the strength of the Sages has been impaired and the light of their eyes has been dimmed.

A speculative, unsigned note says that this probably means the book was either suppressed or forgotten, perhaps destroyed. But it doesn't say what it is, nor could I find any references to it on this site.

What is -- or, I suppose, was -- the Book of Genealogies? Chazal must have known something about it since they referred to it in the talmud. Rashi there says (according to Soncino) that it contained the reasons for many scriptural laws that have been forgotten. Was this a rabbinic writing? A text of divine origin?

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See the Marhasha –  sam Aug 22 '13 at 2:38
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@sam thanks. I'd love to; don't know how. :-( –  Monica Cellio Aug 22 '13 at 2:56
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@Monica Maharsha is a commentary printed in the back of standard full size gemaras just after the Rosh. He, unlike many commentators, comments on aggadic passages as well as halachik ones. –  Double AA Aug 22 '13 at 3:37
    
Here is the relevant page. The piece sam referred to is in the second column, about half way down, in the somewhat smaller print. hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37955&st=&pgnum=335 –  Double AA Aug 22 '13 at 9:11
    
Thanks @DoubleAA. Sounds like a commentary I'd like to be able to read in general (not just for this question). My Hebrew isn't good enough yet, which is my failing, not anybody else's. –  Monica Cellio Aug 22 '13 at 14:23
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1 Answer

According to Rashi - and confirmed by the Maharsha (as pointed out by sam) - it's a collection of Oral Law passed down over the generations to explain דברי הימים - Chronicles. It was not a book detailing [then] current Yichus.

Most of Chronicles consists of lists; these lists need explanation.

E.g.:

אָדָם שֵׁת, אֱנוֹשׁ

This Pasuk (Chronicles I 1:1) is a father-son list:אָדָם the father of שֵׁת the father of אֱנוֹשׁ.

Now look at Pasuk 1:4

נֹחַ שֵׁם, חָם וָיָפֶת

This Pasuk lists Noach and his 3 sons. So the Book of Genealogies would enable one to create a Family Tree from the lists of Pesukim.

As the Gemara itself says that between Ezel and Ezel they learn wagon fulls of Halachot. If you look up the verses in question they are very similar:

the first Pasuk is from Chronicles I 8:38

וּלְאָצֵל, שִׁשָּׁה בָנִים וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹתָם עַזְרִיקָם בֹּכְרוּ וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל וּשְׁעַרְיָה, וְעֹבַדְיָה וְחָנָן; כָּל-אֵלֶּה, בְּנֵי אָצַל

The second Pasuk is from Chronicles I 9:44

וּלְאָצֵל, שִׁשָּׁה בָנִים, וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹתָם עַזְרִיקָם בֹּכְרוּ וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל וּשְׁעַרְיָה, וְעֹבַדְיָה וְחָנָן; אֵלֶּה, בְּנֵי אָצַל

So they had wagon fulls of explanations for the 40 verses between these 2, and/or for the reason for the repetition and slight change between the 2 verses.

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Unfortunately, both Rashi and the Maharsha keep up the confusion - on one hand they say like you said that it's a peirush on Divrei Hayamim, on the other hand they said that it was a sefer of real yuchsin (Which is why he didn't want to teach it and according to the Maharsha why it was hidden). –  Shmuel Brin Aug 28 '13 at 0:13
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