A greet­ing for Yom Kip­pur calls for the proper words

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Carly Mal­len­baum

The Jewish Day of Atone­ment is a solemn time for re­flec­tion, not a happy hol­i­day.

Yom Kip­pur, which is ob­served from Sun­day to Mon­day even­ing, is con­sid­ered the holi­est day of the year in Ju­daism. It’s a high hol­i­day that fol­lows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

But it’s not ex­actly a “happy” hol­i­day. So don’t tell some­one “Happy Yom Kip­pur.”

“This isn’t a day of rau­cous­ness and par­ty­ing,” says Becky Zo­bel­man-Stern, chief pro­gram of­fi­cer at the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Los Angeles. “Yom Kip­pur is not about be­ing happy. It’s about think­ing. It’s about self ex­am­i­na­tion.”

Yom Kip­pur trans­lates from He­brew to English as Day of Atone­ment. Tra­di­tion­ally, Jews spend the hol­i­day fast­ing and re­flect­ing on past ac­tions.

Even if you’re not Jewish, you can ac­knowl­edge the hol­i­day, and it is in­deed re­spect­ful to share well wishes to your friends and col­leagues who do ob­serve.

So, what should you say or write? There are some op­tions.

The tra­di­tional Yom Kip­pur greet­ing

“G’mar cha­tima tova” is the cus­tom­ary greet­ing on Yom Kip­pur. In English, it means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.”

Ac­cord­ing to Jewish tra­di­tion, one’s fate is de­cided on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kip­pur.

“Our lives are in the bal­ance be­tween Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur de­pend­ing on how we act,” says Rabbi An­drea London of Beth Emet syn­a­gogue in Evanston, Illi­nois.

“The fully right­eous are in­scribed (in the Book of Life) for the year, the wholly evil are not in­scribed and the rest of us need to work to make amends and make sure we have more good deeds than bad, if we want to be sealed for an­other year of life,” she adds.

Rabbi Sarah Krin­sky of Adas Is­rael

Con­gre­ga­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC, says “not many mod­erns hold this lit­eral the­ol­ogy.” She’s among them, but that doesn’t stop her from send­ing the mes­sage “g’mar cha­tima tova” for Yom Kip­pur.

Of note: The “ch” sound in “cha­tima” is not pro­nounced like the English word “chat.” In­stead, it should sound more like gut­tural ut­ter­ance from the throat, like a back­wards snore, be­cause it comes from the He­brew letter Chet. “G’mar ha­tima tov”also is ac­cept­able.

A sim­ple Yom Kip­pur greet­ing

“Have an easy fast” might sound like an odd thing to say, but it’s “very much ap­pre­ci­ated,” says Zo­bel­man-Stern.

“That is what the hol­i­day is all about: Tak­ing away all plea­sur­able things for the day so you can re­pent and take ac­count of your­self,” she says.

You can also wish some­one a mean­ing­ful fast. Tra­di­tion­ally, peo­ple who ob­serve Yom Kip­pur nei­ther eat nor drink for 25 hours, with the ex­cep­tion of chil­dren and those for whom fast­ing is dan­ger­ous. Once the­fast­ing ends, it’s time to break the fast with break­fast foods such as bagels and eggs dishes.

Yom Kip­pur greet­ing that works through Oc­to­ber

“L’shana tova” or “shana tova,” which means “have a good year,” is a proper greet­ing on the Jewish New Year and also fit­ting to say on Yom Kip­pur and through the hol­i­day Sukkot, which goes from Oct. 2 to Oct. 9.

You may no­tice that the words “tova” and “cha­tima” are some­times writ­ten “to­vah” and “cha­timah.” Those spellings with H’s, which are English translit­er­a­tions of the He­brew words, take ac­count of the He­brew letter Hei, which can have an H sound or be silent.

Make sure you mes­sage at the right time

Or­tho­dox Jews and many other ob­servers of Yom Kip­pur avoid us­ing tech­nol­ogy dur­ing the hol­i­day. So if you want to share a mes­sage or make a phone call that’s an­swered ahead of the day of fast­ing, send it be­fore Sun­day even­ing or af­ter sun­down Mon­day, af­ter the fast has been bro­ken.

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