Yom Kippur greetings: What to say to your Jewish friends on Yom Kippur

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Yom Kippur is the holiest and most solemn day of the Jewish year. According to tradition, at the end of Yom Kippur, God “seals” our fates for the coming year and decides whether we will be inscribed in the Book of Life. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Wednesday, September 15 and ends on the evening of Thursday, September 16.

There are several ways to greet someone on Yom Kippur and leading up to the day. (Also, be sure to check out our last minute Yom Kippur checklist.) 

Before we get into the different Yom Kippur greetings, one thing you should avoid saying is “Happy Yom Kippur.” Although there is an argument that Yom Kippur is also a joyful day, as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik taught: “there is also great joy on the day that our sins are forgiven,” since the general tone of Yom Kippur is very solemn, it’s not fitting to wish someone a “happy day.”

Now onto what you should say. You can use any of these options:

Gmar chatima tova (A good final sealing)

Gmar chatima tova” means “a good final sealing” in Hebrew. This is said in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and in the early hours of the fast on Yom Kippur. 

The greeting is based on the belief that our fates are “written” on Rosh Hashanah and “sealed” on Yom Kippur. This expresses the wish that someone will be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Gmar tov (A good final sealing — shortened version)

 “Gmar tov” is a shorter way of saying “Gmar chatima tova.” Same idea.

Ketiva v’chatima tova (A good writing and sealing)

Similar to the past two, “Ketiva v’chatima tova” means “have a good writing and sealing” in Hebrew. It’s like a fancier version of “Gmar chatima tova.

Tzom kal (Have an easy fast)

Since Yom Kippur is a fast day, it’s traditional to wish someone an easy fast. “Tzom kal” is Hebrew for “have an easy fast” but you could, of course, simply say “Have an [easy / meaningful / easy and meaningful] fast” too.

Have a meaningful Yom Kippur

By now you know that we don’t say “Happy Yom Kippur” but what you can say is simply “have a meaningful Yom Kippur.” It’s short and sweet, especially if the Hebrew greetings will have you stumbling on your words.

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