The Story of a Mysterious Jewish Holiday Phrase: ‘The Book of Life’

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1365077148Kotvenu b’sefer he-ḥayyim, “Inscribe us in the Book of Life,” Jews pray in the days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. “May you be written down and inscribed for a good year,” they say to each other.

No concept or phrase is more associated with the High Holy Days than that of a divine “book” in which our fates are written. But where does this come from? What are its origins in Jewish tradition?

They’re very old. We first encounter them in the story of the golden calf in the book of Exodus. In his rage at the Israelites’ reversion to idolatry while he has been in seclusion on Mount Sinai, Moses has the statue of the calf made by them ground to dust, and he orders a massacre of its worshippers. Yet having done all this, he beseeches God to forgive Israel’s sin and requests that if He doesn’t, He should “erase me, I pray, from Your book that You have written.”

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Posted by on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013. Filed under Jewish News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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