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What Is Shanah Tovah? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Greetings

What Is Shanah Tovah? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Greetings

The meaning of the traditional New Year wishes

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The Jewish new year is not just a time to renew our resolve to lose another fifteen pounds. Rather, it’s the time when our fate stands in the balance as G‑d reviews our past year and decides whether or not to renew our lease on His planet. As such, Jewish greetings for this time of year (the Jewish New Year is in the fall) reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year up ahead.

The catch-all greeting you can use for the entire season is “Shanah tovah” (שנה טובה), which means “Good year.” The word “u’metuka” (ומתוקה), and sweet, is sometimes appended to the end.

Here are some other greetings that you may hear:

Before Rosh Hashanah, people wish each other “Ketivah v’chatima tovah”(כתיבה וחתימה טובה) “A good inscription and sealing [in the Book of Life].” On Rosh Hashanah eve, as we return from synagogue service, it is traditional to greet one another with “Leshana tovah tikatev v’tichatem” (לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם). When greeting a female, this is modified to“Leshana tovah tikatevee v’tichatemee” (לשנה טובה תכתבי ותחתמי). This means, “May you be written and sealed for a good year.”

From noon on Rosh Hashanah, when our fates are already written, until Yom Kippur, when our fates for the coming year are to be sealed, we wish each other “Gemar chatimah tovah” (גמר חתימה טובה), “A good final sealing.”

Now for the Yiddish version: The standard wish is for “A gut gebentsht yohr,” “A good and blessed year” (א גוט געבענטשט יאהר). And since tradition tells us that our fate is not really sealed until Hoshanah Rabba, the customary salutation for that day is “A gutten kvittl” (א גוט'ן קוויטל), “A good inscription.”

No matter what we say, the main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart – because that is what G‑d values the most.

Click here (before the holiday) to instantly email Shana Tova greeting cards to your family and friends!

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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Jacob Tomas Hershkovich Toronto September 29, 2017

Gmar is to be added to Chatima Tova only after the fasting is over. Reply

Michael Aravena, Ibn Ara/Ora USA September 21, 2017

Ketivah v’chatima tovah, !!! כתיבה וחתימה טובה Reply

Anonymous Moriarty,NM October 19, 2016

Interesting. This helped me a lot. Reply

Terry Banbury October 7, 2016

Roman calender For the gentleman that asked, the old Roman new year is actually the 1st of March not January just to add to the confusion. They only adopted the Gregorian calender putting new year at 1st jan somewhere around 1590ad.
Despite what most consider to be the norm, there are still 20 or so other calenders in use around the globe still in common use with different dates for such things as New Year.
The recognition of another cultures festival/celebration is in general met with terms you don't want to use in any language - stick with what you know, its less likely to offend. Reply

Anonymous Washington, DC October 4, 2016

Can someone please explain the difference between Shanah Tovah and L'Shanah Tovah? I say Shanah Tovah, but I don't know if I've been saying it incorrectly all this time. Reply

Joel NJ September 22, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Shanah Tovah means good year, with no context. In L'Shanah Tovah, the "L" is a Hebrew preposition that corresponds in this case to the English preposition "for", and the context is the greeting "May you be inscribed for a good year!" Reply

Anonymous Washington, DC September 28, 2017
in response to Joel:

Thank you! Reply

Anonymous October 3, 2016

La Chaim! I hope I'm not in this year's Book!! Reply

Anonymous Peccole Ranch September 18, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Me Too!! Reply

Floyd Braun Eagle Butte October 2, 2016

How to greet Thank you, this was very helpful. I now know how to greet my Jewish allies in the proper way. May your family know love and peace this coming year and always. Reply

jim dallas September 29, 2016

great and helpful article i wish all to be successful this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and may we move closer to that great event moschiach! Reply

Heeb_DC Washington, DC September 10, 2014

For a non-Jewish new year Jan 1st - it simply wouldn't be in Hebrew - it isn't a matter of a different celebration date - it is an entirely different event. Just say Happy New Year. Same for a Jew - in my opinion-

I had the Safeway grocery clerk tell me the other day (I always end up in her line) that an item I asked after should be in by the New Year. . I initially thought she meant January - as when I first asked her for their Kosher section she thought it was some sort of BBQ item. So when I realized she meant my New Year - I got on such a smile - I realized that we were both educating each other but more importantly reaching out and valuing each other. That was truly a great moment I'll reflect on in weigh against my many shortcomings and as I go through reams of curled paper transgressions. To date that New Year wish remains the greatest Shana Tova! in a very long time. Reply

Anonymous Florida September 4, 2013

La Shana Tova. May the New Year bring all, inner peace and the desire to do good things and treat each other with kindness, especially those that are less fortunate than we are. Reply

Max Wash.USA December 30, 2012

Does anyone know what's standard in Hebrew to say in lieu of , "Happy New Year" when one is refering to the Roman Calendar? (Jan. 1) Does anyone know what's standard in Hebrew to say in lieu of , "Happy New Year" when one is refering to the Roman Calendar? (Jan. 1) Reply

Irene Alhanati Cardillo Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 18, 2012

Shofar and Roshah Hashanah I wish you all, dear friends at Chabad.org, team and readers, a very happy 5773!
Shanhah Tovah! Reply

Anonymous Madison, WI September 17, 2012

Dear Anonymous, Winchelsea, East Sussex, England Wishing all, but you in particular, a happy new. It is wonderful that you can see your way through a rough time and bestow good wishes on others. Reply

Anonymous Winchelsea, East Sussex, England September 16, 2012

Rosh Hashanah I am at home alone after 2 weeks in hospital and having lost the use of my right leg. The pain killers prescribed are very strong and I am not my usual self mentally or physically. For those people not with friends or family as I am leshana tovah tikateiv veteichateim. Reply

Ellen Lichtenstein Wynnewood Pa 19096 September 17, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I just read your post and thought maybe it is not to late to say LaShana Tova for this year. Reply

roger ganhes Johannesburg , South Africa September 14, 2012

Le Shana Tova may the love and light experienced at Rosh Hashanah
be your guide into the new year.

may HaShem grant you inner peace, good health, serenity, wealth and a life of abundance.

“Le Shana Tova “ Reply

Anonymous Bellevue, Ky/USA October 21, 2010

May a new year bring peace, happiness, and good fortune. Reply

Bronwyn Van Dam Hobart, Australia September 6, 2010

NEW YEAR May the New Year bring us all closer to G-d. Reply

Rosetta Suttner Hartbeespoort, South Africa September 5, 2010

Leshana Tova May we join hands as a nation and work together in the New year to foster peace, faith and love in our fellow men and women! Reply

dorit yosef September 3, 2010

May the new year bring peace, prosperity and a world filled with laughter and love.

Leshana Tova Tekatev v'etachetem - May you be inscribed for a sweet and good year! Reply

Petra and Justus Birlenbach Prague, Czech Republic September 2, 2010

Sweet and good! Have all a very good year, let it be sweet and peaceful, let it be prosperous and good! Reply

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