Here’s How to Greet Someone Properly on Yom Kippur
What do you say on Yom Kippur? It is the holiest day of the year in Judaism, so sending wishes to let someone know you are thinking of them on this important Day of Atonement would be a much appreciated gesture. Depending on your greeting of choice, you can actually reach out with greetings for Yom Kippur anytime within the 10 days prior to the high holiday. These are the Days of Awe, the time in between Rosh Hashanah ( the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur in which Jewish people ask for forgiveness from anyone they have wronged over the past year.
The sacred holiday falls on the 10th of Tishrei, which holds significance because that was the day that God forgave Moses on the top of Mount Sinai. The Israelites had been wandering the desert for 40 years after fleeing enslavement from the Pharaoh in Egypt. During that time, they worshipped a golden calf, an idol, which was a direct contradiction to monotheism. Moses was granted atonement by God for the Israelites wrongdoings, and the tradition of Yom Kippur continued when the Jewish people finally reached the land of Israel.
Yom Kippur Greetings in English
Wishing you an easy fast! or Have an easy fast!
Fasting is a vehicle in which Jews on Yom Kippur reflect on and atone for their sins. Starting at sundown on Erev Yom Kippur, those observing will fast until nightfall the following day. Not eating or drinking for this 25/26 hour period can be quite difficult, so wishing someone an easy fast is a kind way of acknowledging the tradition.
Have a meaningful fast!
Some might prefer to describe the fast as meaningful, since fasting on Yom Kippur isn’t necessarily meant to be easy.
May you be inscribed in the book of life!
This greeting for Yom Kippur references the traditional belief that a person’s fate for the coming year is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. You have 10 days in between the two holidays to ask for forgiveness and repent for your sins.
I apologize for anything I did this year to upset you!
If you would like to participate in the traditions of Yom Kippur and atone for your sins over the past year by asking for forgiveness from the people in your life, then go right ahead and do so with an apology! If there is something specific you would like to ask for forgiveness, then that is wonderful! Or, you can provide a blanket apology if you’d like to be covered for all of your transgressions over the year.
Psst: Do you say Happy Yom Kippur?
Even though Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and atoning, it is actually not a sad day. With that said, wishing someone a Happy Yom Kippur is a bit of a stretch. It’s not completely inappropriate, so don’t fret if you’ve said it to a Jewish friend or colleague, but some of these other English Yom Kippur greetings would be more ideal.
Yom Kippur Greetings in Hebrew
G’mar Chatima Tovah
גְּמַר חֲתִימָה טוֹבָה
TRANSLITERATION BMA STYLE: GEH-mAHr CHAH-tEE-mAH TOH-vAH
The most common Yom Kippur greeting in Hebrew is G’mar Chatima Tovah which literally means, “a good final sealing” in the Book of Life. G’mar comes from the root word that means finish, chatima can mean a signature or sealing, and tova means good. Since the book of life is sealed on Yom Kippur, this phrase works best if said during the 10 Days of Awe or in the early hours of Yom Kippur.
TRANSLITERATION BMA STYLE: GEH-mAHr TOHv
The phrase G’mar Tov – literally translating to a good finish or a good end – is an abbreviated and less formal version of G’mar Chatima Tovah.
TRANSLITERATION BMA STYLE: TzOHm-kAHL
Tzom Kal literally translates to “easy fast” and is the proper way in Hebrew to say the equivalent English greetings shared above. If you would prefer to wish someone a meaningful fast, the Hebrew phrase is Tzom Mo’il (צוֹם מוֹעִיל).
Yom Kippur Greetings in Yiddish
Gut Yontiff is the Yiddish version of Yom Tov, the Hebrew name for the festival days or annual dates on the Jewish calendar in which the Torah prohibits work. Technically, Yom Kippur is not a Yom Tov holiday because you can’t honor the day with food and drink. And as the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is in its own league. But, if you do wish someone a Gut Yontiff on Yom Kippur, the point will be made and the gesture will be much appreciated because it is also a way to simply wish someone a good holiday.
What happens at sundown on Yom Kippur day? As the final service draws to a close with the last blast of the shofar, people traditionally break the fast with breakfast foods as these types of dishes are generally easier to digest. Bagels and schmear, blintzes, and kugel are all staples of a traditional break fast meal.
Were these greetings for Yom Kippur helpful to you? Learn more Hebrew on the BMA blog!