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    Written & sealed

    booksThe famous Un’tanneh Tokef says, “On Rosh HaShanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed – who shall live and who shall die, etc.”

    Where is all this written and sealed?

    We know from Ex. 32:32 that God has a book, whatever the word “book” indicates.

    Moses asks God to forgive the people’s sin and adds, “But if you will not forgive their sin, then erase my name from Your book”.

    Rashi tells us that the book that Moses is talking about is the Torah.

    Every Jew has a portion in that Torah – according to a (mathematically difficult) tradition, there are about 600,000 letters in the Torah, and there were about 600,000 male adult Israelites in the wilderness, so every Israelite is represented by one of the letters.

    In that sense the Torah is not complete if any Israelite is missing, so it is not just a book of law but a picture of the people. If someone is absent, whatever the reason, their place in the Torah is vacant. As Jonathan said to David, “You will be missed, for your seat will be empty” (I Sam. 20:18).

    The better known explanation found in the Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 16b) is that God has three books of record, a book for the perfectly righteous, one for the totally wicked, and one for the intermediate category who have their amalgam of good and their bad points.

    Almost everyone has their name in the book of the in-betweens, and our prayer is that our deeds will move us out of the limbo category and earn us an inscription in the Divine “good book”.

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