Is there any truth to the common claim that each person has a predetermined number of words that he can speak in his life? Source, please.

If so, then how does it work? In particular (with sources or arguments, please):

  • To whom does this apply? Jews? others?
  • Does each person have the same number (what number?) or words, or does each person have his own number?
  • Can the number change during the course of a person's life, e.g. based on his merits?
  • What happens when he runs out of words? Does he go mute? die?
  • Does any language count? (Agglutinative languages' speakers may live long, depending on the answer to the immediately previous subquestion.)
  • Do words of tora study and prayer count?
  • Does writing words count as saying them? Does signing them?
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    What do you mean by truth? Is there a source that says this for musar? Yes. Does it actually work? You would have to do a double blind study for that... Taking such statements to their logical conclusion seems to miss the point of the statement however.
    – avi
    Jul 28, 2011 at 6:11
  • Like @avi was hinting the meaning of this musar is probably: speak every word as if you had only a finite number of words to speak in your lifetime. Jul 28, 2011 at 9:52
  • I was under the impression that this was a kabbalistic idea, but I could certainly be wrong.
    – JXG
    Jul 28, 2011 at 11:58
  • @avi, not for musar. I was wondering whether there's a source that says this as an actual fact: one really does have only a finite number of words.
    – msh210
    Jul 31, 2011 at 4:10
  • @DavidPerlman, please see my above comment addressed to avi.
    – msh210
    Jul 31, 2011 at 4:11

3 Answers 3


I've heard and seen this idea, in stories / biographies of people careful with how many words they used. but I could not locate an online source. The closest so far is:

"When a man speaks and expels hevel (breath) from his mouth - this breath is his lifeforce (chiyuso). The proof of this is after the soul has left the body, there is not left in him neither breath nor speech. Therefore we find that this breath that comes out from his mouth when he speaks is a chelek nishmaso (a part of his soul). And therefore we have been commanded to not speak useless speech - which causes a loss of part of his soul." (Petach Einayim Nedarim 22, in name of Rav Chaim Vital zt'l)

It would make sense for the former idea to develop from the latter. That there is a source, of course, does not ensure that it is true...

  • +1, thanks. Weak, though (as you note).
    – msh210
    Aug 2, 2011 at 20:46

Derech Pikudecha (Bnei Yisoschor)- page 162 - paragraph starting with Gimel says that one has a limit on the amount of words in his lifetime and if he speaks too much is shortening his life.

קיבלנו מרבותינו בפסוק: 'נפשי יצאה בדברו', שיש שיעור לאדם כמה ידבר כל ימי חייו, ואם ירבה לדבר שלא במקום מצווה, הנה ממעט החיות

Sefer Darkei Tzedek - page 10 - #54 also mentions this concept.

לא ירבה דיבורים שלא לצורך, כי הדיבורים בזמן חיי האדם קצובים מן השמים ולמה לו לקצר חייו בדיבורים שאינן של מצווה, ואין צריכים לו כלל, כמאמר שלמה המלך עליו השלום בשיר השירים: ונפשי יצאה בדברו. נפשי שנתתי באדם יוצא בדברו

Thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner for this answer.


The 5th Chabad Rebbe writes that the power of speech is infinite, it would stand to reason therefore that the answer is no, there is not a finite number of words that one can speak.

  • 1
    NKU3, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for that reference! You could make your answer even more valuable by citing a specific source.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 31, 2011 at 23:32
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    A source is especially important here since it sounds from your answer that he is referring to quality, not quantity.
    – YDK
    Aug 1, 2011 at 5:06
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    @YDK: I don't know where the Rashab (5th Lubavitcher Rebbe) talks about this, but the Baal Hatanya (1st one) writes, in ch. 20 of Tanya, that a person's faculty of speech "can produce an infinite number of words" - which shows that he, at least, is indeed referring to quantity rather than quality.
    – Alex
    Jan 31, 2012 at 6:14
  • @Alex, pick a hemshech, any hemshech =D. Specifically, I think the Rebbe Rashab discusses it in the beginning of Rana"t. I seem to remember it discussing koach hadibbur there.
    – HodofHod
    May 1, 2012 at 13:57
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    @Alex What? Isn't he obviously saying "an infinite number of different words"? Obviously one does not have time to speak infinitely many words in a finite lifetime.
    – Adám
    May 16, 2014 at 14:01

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