ON THESE TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE
Why Gemar Chatimah Tova?
Our tradition teaches that each of us is judged on Rosh Hashanah. Our fates are written in the “Book of Life.” Ten days later, at the end of Yom Kippur, those fates are amended or confirmed and they are “sealed” in the Book of Life. (BTW, sealing is like sealing an old-fashioned letter, with melted wax. The wax is “sealed” over the flap, keeping it closed)
So, prior to Rosh Hashanah and throughout the holiday, the greeting we give is: “L’shana tova,” which means “for a good year,” (or fully “l’shana tova tikateivu”) meaning “may you be written in the Book of Life for a good year.” Other variants are “shana tova” (good year) or “l’shana tova umetukah” (for a good and sweet year).
In between Rosh Hashanah and through Yom Kippur, the greeting changes. Now we say, “gemar chatimah tovah.” This means “may you be finally sealed for goodness” in the Book of Life.
So…as we go through these ten days, doing our own work of repentance – asking for and giving forgiveness – let us greet one another and hope that each of us has a good “sealing” for the coming year.