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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 12.25:
What is the "Book of Life"?


The "Book of Life" is called Sefer HaChaim in Hebrew. The only reference to such a book (where the lives of humans are written) that occurs in the Torah is in Sh'mot (Exodus) 32:32. According to the New JPS translation:

"Now, if You will forgive their sin [well and good]; but if not, erase me from the record which You have written!".

In Hebrew the words that are translated as "the record which You have written." can also be translated as your book that you wrote. It is as close as we come in Torah itself. In the Prophets Malachi 3:16 speaks of a scroll of remembrance. Scroll is often a translation of the word sefer which is mostly translated as book. In T'hilim (Psalms 69:28-69:29) you have the expression Sefer Chaim (Book of Life) and the idea of the righteous being written into the same. The idea has been developed much further in post T'nach (Old Testament) times and is today a central motif in the Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur services.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>