“On Rosh Hashana, it is inscribed and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed.”

And so, our traditional greeting on and leading up to Rosh Hashanah is, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” In Hebrew we say, “L’shana tova tikatev v’tichatem” with Ashkenazic pronunciation as well as gender or group variations.

After Rosh Hashana, we drop the reference to inscription as we’ve already been inscribed and focus on the sealing, wishing each other “a good final sealing” or “g’mar chatima tova.” We can shorten this down to “a good finale” or “g’mar tov”. (Note the grammatical adjustment from “tova” to “tov” because Hebrew is a gender-based language.

Other greeting options for Yom Kippur include “good yom tov” “gut yuntiff” or “tsom kal—easy fast.” Even in circles where it is known that people aren’t fasting, like in nursing homes, “easy fast” seems to be a common and appropriate greeting.

A very common Yom Kippur greeting is to wish others a “Shabbat shalom.” We, of course, do this out of habit in synagogue, but it isn’t technically correct (unless it happens to be Shabbat). We get embarrassed, but it’s so common that we really shouldn’t.

If all of this is intimidating, “Shana tov” or “happy New Year” are totally appropriate for another few weeks.

Yom Kippur starts Tuesday evening. Wishing everyone a sweet new year and a good final sealing. 

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