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What Is Shanah Tovah? New Year Greeting Translation and More

What Is Shanah Tovah? New Year Greeting Translation and More

The meaning of the traditional Rosh Hashanah wishes


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
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Discussion (20)
October 19, 2016
Interesting. This helped me a lot.
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.
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.
Washington, DC
October 3, 2016
La Chaim!
I hope I'm not in this year's Book!!
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.
Floyd Braun
Eagle Butte
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!
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.
Washington, DC
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.
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)
September 18, 2012
Shofar and Roshah Hashanah
I wish you all, dear friends at, team and readers, a very happy 5773!
Shanhah Tovah!
Irene Alhanati Cardillo
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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