Greetings Friends; this post begins with this week’s Torah portion Nitzavim. After that, you will find insights on Sefer Haim in honor of Rosh Hashanah.

by David Friedman

SYNOPSIS Of the Torah Portion

In this Torah portion, Nitzavim, we move from warnings and exhortations meant to incentivize fulfilling the covenant to a prophecy about the covenant. The flexibility in Torah is a little more apparent in these sections. The ability to turn back to a better way is offered. This suggests that the universe is a safe place to try things out. Free choice is extended, which is partly a relief and somewhat scary. In between dire warnings and threats, we find potent intentions given in Torah. We are empowered.

we are built TO DO THIS WORK.

11 For this commandment which I command you this day, is not too wondrous from you, nor is it far away.יא כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָֽנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹֽא־רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא:
12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can do it?”יב לֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַֽעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֨יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַֽעֲשֶֽׂנָּה:
13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can do it?”יג וְלֹֽא־מֵעֵ֥בֶר לַיָּ֖ם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַֽעֲבָר־לָ֜נוּ אֶל־עֵ֤בֶר הַיָּם֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַֽעֲשֶֽׂנָּה:
14 Because [this] matter is very close to you; in your mouth and in your heart, to do.ידכִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד בְּפִ֥יךָ וּבִלְבָֽבְךָ֖ לַֽעֲשׂתֽוֹ:
Deuteronomy 30:11 – 14.

nitzavim is read on the Shabbat right before Rosh Hashanah

Hasidic teachings highlight that this Torah portion indicates how firmly we stand as we enter the Days of Awe. This is a good correction for some frightening judgments in the readings around this time of year.  “Atem Nitzavim culam hayom” suggests that ‘you are all standing firmly today.’ You do not need to be afraid of the awesomeness and judgment of the coming holy days. You got this; you are standing firmly. 


The Torah portion in the s’firah cycle is Netzah in Sh’khinah. 

It is fitting that The Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah counts Netzah in Sh’Khinah.

Rosh Hashanah is a major Jewish holy day and is an important aspect of cultural identity.

This Shabbat, we bless Rosh Hashanah, the new year. B’nai Yisakhar teaches that On Rosh Hashanah, humans were created. (The first day of creation is the 25 Elul.) We are blessed to initiate a new cycle.  We acknowledge the continuity and pray for more years, personally and globally. May we have the merit to stay the course.



Scrolls, Spirals, and the Akashic Record


I grew up, as did many, with a childhood image of God as a stern old man. On Rosh Hashanah, he sat before a great big book, quill in his hand. His brow is furrowed as he turns page after page. He reads diligently and with surprise, delight, anger, and disappointment.  He is deciding who will live and who will die, person by person.

On Yom Kippur, the book is sealed for the year and God lets it all go till next year.


These metaphors offer a binary perspective – good or bad, life or death, is your name written in the book or not? It lacks depth or nuance. Life is analog, nuanced, complex, very messy, and mixed at times.

Back when rabbinical Judaism was first instituted, all “books” were scrolls. All books were paper spiraled on poles. They looked like the Torah scrolls used today.

write us into the life

Every year Jews pray an ask for the privilege of life. The language used varies in assorted prayer books in a subtle yet potent way. in different prayer books. While, “Sefer HaHaiim” (The Scroll of Life) is found in mainstream prayer books; “Sefer Hayyim” (Living Scroll) is found in mystical prayer books and one of the earliest prayer books printed. (See addendum for more on this details. )

That single letter profoundly changes the meaning of this plea.

“Sefer Haiim,” asks that we be written into the Living Scroll. This brings visions of ongoing spirals of life. The planets are orbiting sun, and moon and her gravitational field is drawing waves of Earth’s water, initiating embryonic movement. This year, a bio-based image of the Sefer Haiim is needed more than ever.


The word “Sefer” looks like this in Hebrew:


The first letter, called samekh, is a circle, like the open space created for life to exist. It is a circle of life. It sounds like “S.” Samekh translates as “support.”

The following letter is a peh. It is represented as a spiral.  The circle opens up and, like a bio-based process, initiates a spiral. Peh/Pheh has two sounds, F and P. A dot inside the spiral indicates the harder sound, the P. This will be important later. Peh translates as “mouth.”

The final letter is the reish. It shows the completion of the spiraling process.  Reish translates as head.

The word “Sefer” pictorially represents a spiraling unfolding, like that is found in nature.

This is paraphrased from commentary on Sefer Yetzirah attributed to the Ariz”l highlights letters as a three-step process, one step for each letter.


The word “Sefer” has a most expansive root. The earliest Jewish Mystical text, Sefer Yetzirah, uses the word Sefer to engage in some of the various valences of this root.

וברא את עולמו בשלשה סְפַרִים: בְּסֵפֶר סְפַר,וְסִפּוּר…

…OoBarah et olamo b’shloshah S’farim: B’Sefer, S’far, v’Sipur

…And Created their World in three Ciphers: In book, number, and story.


An organic phonetic connection between the Hebrew word Sefer and English Cipher is revealed. This is a valuable and inclusive way to understand the deeper meaning of Sefer.  

What do Scroll, Number, and Story have in common?

Seifer Yetzirah offers three distinct resonances from this root.

“SeFeR” Book; “S’FaR” Number; and “SeePuR” Story.  Each of these is a method of communication, a code, a cipher.

Some  other words that share this phonetic sequence include :

“SaPiR”; Sapphire; the physical matter that makes up the throne of Glory in Ezekiel’s vision. , which are found in abundant colors.

“S’FiRah” Ten S’firot are on the Tree of Life.

Shofar – In the acrostic sung on Shabbat the acrostic piyyut El Adon does something playful, you wil find it soon after the Barkhu – the call to prayer. Just the letter סְ is up, it shifts to a Sin ש, which has the same sound as . This playfulness is relevant when looking at the Shofar שופר. Rosh Hashanah is Yom Truah – the day when the Shofar is blasted. In this nuanced way the Shofar shares an essence with Seifer.  

In English we find words like SPiRal and SPiRitual

Ciphers and Sefers from Heaven to Earth – all the way down.

What else?


Seifer Haiim is a metaphor for ongoing SPiRals of life.  The encoding of all actions like the Akashic record. Everyone signs in to it, and everyone’s fingerprints, are in it.

May you and your loved ones be imprinted into ongoing SPiRals of love and life. Shanah Tovah.


“Sefer HaHaiim” (The Scroll of Life) is found in more mainstream prayer books; see Emden S’fard, Art Scroll, Davkawriter – both S’fard and Ashkenazi, Koren, and Chabad’s Tehillat Hashem, “Seifer Hayyim” (Living Scroll) found in mystical prayer books like Mahzor HaShalem attributed to Sh’ner Zalman, Oz HaT’fillah, Yedid Nefesh as well as (one of) the earliest prayer book, attributed to Saadia Gaon.

Tmimah Audrey ickovits