In Avinu Malkeinu we mention five books,

ספר חיים טובים, - book of good life

ספר גאולה וישועה, - book of redemption and salvation

ספר זכויות, - book of merits

ספר פרנסה וכלכלה, - book of income and sustenance

and ספר סליחה ומחילה. - book of forgiveness

The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 16a only mentions three books, צדיקים, רשעים, and בינונים - Rightious, wicked and in between.

Are the five from avinu malkeinu all part of the book of of rightious/Tzadikim?

{According to Tosfos the sefer Tzadikim is regarding the world to come, so we could ask: Is there a separate judgment for this world, and these are the five categories we are being judged about?}

Also, what is the book of Merits/Sefer "Zechuyos"?

  • 1
    Rav Pam is quoted saying the sefer zechuyos is being given opportunities to do meritorious deeds. I.e. Someone needs help crossing the street, a neighbor could use help with his sukkah, etc. You're not guaranteed zechusim as you might decline the opportunity, but we ask to have the chances to earn those merits
    – NJM
    Sep 22, 2020 at 3:58
  • What about what we add into the shmoneh esrei - בספר חיים ברכה ושלום ופרנסה טובה נזכר ונכתב לפניך...
    – Dov
    Sep 22, 2020 at 6:57
  • On Tosfos - yes, there is a judgement on this world (see R"H 16a). The Biur HaGra points out that this judgement is not the one referred to on 16b which is for the World to Come according to Tosfos, but it does exist.
    – AKA
    Sep 22, 2020 at 7:39

3 Answers 3


Generalising the question: One of the themes on Rosh Hashanah is that Hashem should remember us for the good, e.g. וזכרנו לטובה ביום הזכרון הזה - Remember us for the good on this day of remembrance.

This would appear to be a bizarre notion, in what way should Hashen remember us for good? Surely Hashem remembers us how we are?

It would appear that we can understand this notion by use of an analogy, let's say you have a point-to-point drawing, but you can join the dots in 2 ways, to make 2 different pictures.

The same applies to us, our lives consists of dots of bechirah (free choice). In order to make a complete picture, Hashem fills in the areas between the dots to create a complete picture of who we are in the universal scheme of things. Hashem can join the dots to make a nice picture of us, or He can join the dots to make a not-so-flattering image.

When we ask that Hashem should remember us for good, we mean that He should form an image of us in the universal scheme of things which is le'tovah, for the best, in the nicest possible way, so that our lives should tend towards the wholesome good that Hashem intends in the universal plan.

Thus, we pray that we should be written in the Book of the Righteous, the sefer ha'tzadikim, so that everything that happens to us should be measured and determined as befits one who is in confluence with Hashem's plan for the world.

As it says in the first berachah in Shemonei Esrei

ומביא גואל לבני בניהם למען שמו באהבה

Hashem brings redemption to their descendants, for His name's sake, [but] with love.

This is apparently the meaning of the notion of the sefer zechuyos, the book of merits.

Once we are written in the Book of Merits, we ask that Hashem should bless us with life etc., in a way that the good that happens to us is in confluence with the ultimate good that is intended for the world.


In the sefer Tiferes Uziel by HaRav Uziel Meisels here (second paragraph on the left column), he notes that these five books correspond to the five books of the Torah.

They tally as follows:

ספר חיים טובים - correlates to Bereishis which is where life was created and thus links with the book of good life.

ספר גאולה וישועה - relates to Shemos where we see the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt (as well as all future redemptions)

ספר פרנסה וכלכלה - Links to Vayikra in that the Korbanos were eaten e.g. the Shelomim sacrifice which teaches that all sustenance is done through a state of holiness.

ספר זכויות - Corresponds to Bamidbar; as each tribe had its own flag, and each branch was a link to its root (not sure on this one - please help! maybe it means there was a sense of 'zechus avos' i.e. they gained merit due to their roots)

ספר סליחה ומחילה - This is Devarim as Moshe Rabbeinu rebuked them for their actions which brought about teshuva

  • 1
    What does it mean then to be written into the five books of the torah?
    – Double AA
    Sep 22, 2020 at 12:41
  • Why does it have to mean that one is being written into the five books of the Torah? It is just a way of seeing how they relate to us based off the Torah teachings. So e.g .we should have a year where we are written into the book of life, as symbolised by Bereishis etc.
    – Dov
    Sep 22, 2020 at 13:23
  • @Dov - Thanks, at least someone asks the question, even though I don't really get the answer as Double AA pointed out, and the ספר זכויות that you allude to. Also, why is there a need to call it "sefer" why not just כתבנו לחיים טובים etc.? Sep 23, 2020 at 0:16

As far as your question what is the book of Merits/Sefer "Zechuyos"?

The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explains that it is a hard request to understand as ממה נפשך (i.e. either way you look at it), if we have enough merits then it doesn't need to be written as a request, and if chas veshalom a person has many sins, what good does it achieve to write it, as they are not in a place to receive these merits?

Hence the Chofetz Chaim reasons that there are mitzvos that we do that are not for the sake of heaven, and neither for the sake of those who have been commanded. Rather they are just for ourselves. These types of mitzvos don't have their place in 'Sefer Zechuyos' as the intention behind them was not for the sake of heaven, but only for our own ulterior motives. However, Hashem in His abundant kindness judges us favourably as the conditions of place, time and the worries of life and livelihood are what caused it, and thus they are included in the Sefer Zechuyos.

As a result we specifically daven that we be written in the Book of Merits so that we be judged favourably and that the mitzvos that we perform that are driven by ulterior motives or any other defect be nevertheless written in the sefer zechuyos. At the same time we continue to ask that it purify our minds to remove all the impurities that mixed together with these commandments until they join and are purified, and can join the mitzvos we have done for Hashem's sake, and in so doing, will increase our merits and our righteousness will emerge.

(As brought in the טללי אורות - ראש השנה quoting the חפץ חיים על התורה p.481)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .