If you know even a little bit about Yom Kippur and what it’s about, it’s easy to get lost wondering how to address people recognizing the holiday. What do you say on Yom Kippur? After all, it’s a day of atonement, so a “happy holiday” seems awkward at best.
And you might want to bone up on how to address observers of the holiday since it begins tonight, Friday, September 29 at sundown and last until nightfall on Saturday, September 30.
First of all, what is Yom Kippur?
As mentioned, Yom Kippur means “day of atonement.” It’s one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar as it’s the chance to atone for the sins of the past year, or to make amends with your maker. It’s seen as sort of a last appeal before your fate is set in stone, as in Judaism it’s believed that god writes your name in books along with your judgement. Observing this holy day allows followers to prove their repentance of their actions and, hopefully, thereby change the judgement written down for them.
How exactly do you set your year right with god? By fasting, strictly, for over 25 hours. That means no food or water — but that’s only the beginning. The holy day is a complete Sabbath, meaning a follower observing the holiday cannot work, consume food or water, wash yourself or apply creams or lotions, wear makeup or deodorant, or have sexual contact with your partner, among other things. They also spend the day in prayer and reflection.
But that’s only to address the sins between an observer and god. Sins committed against fellow man must also be addressed, but before Yom Kippur starts. People should make amends to the people they have wronged and set them right, if possible.
OK, so what do you say on Yom Kippur?
So what do you say on Yom Kippur? Instead of struggling through thinking of the most appropriate way to greet people given the holiness and solemnity of this holiday, just use these suggestions.
Your best bet is to go with the Hebrew greeting “G’mar Fatima Tova,” which means “may you be sealed in the Book of Life,” although it’s also acceptable to use a shortened version of this greeting — which may be more comfortable for people unfamiliar with the holiday or Hebrew pronunciation — of “G’mar Tov.”
But those aren’t your only options. If you’re willing to take a stab at some more Hebrew, you can also try “G’mar Hatimah Tovah,” which is a little more specific, meaning “may you be sealed for a good year [in the Book of Life].” If this high holy day sound taxing to you as someone who does not observe the holiday, you might want to go with “Tzom Kal,” which means “have an easy fast.”