And only He can write their names in the Book of Life
– As upwards of 17 million Jews worldwide mark Yom Kippur – the biblical holiday known as the “Day of Atonement” – they are fasting, praying, attending synagogue, and pleading with the God of Israel to forgive all of the sins they have committed this past year.
In the ten “Days of Awe” leading from Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Teruah (the “Day of Trumpets”) to Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world say to each other in Hebrew, “Ketivah v’chatima tovah.”
They are essentially saying, “May you have a good inscription and sealing [in the Book of Life].”
That is, they are hoping that God permanently writes the names of their family and friends in the Book of Life so that they will truly be forgiven of all their sins and able to go to heaven for eternity when they die.
Then, on Yom Kippur itself, Jews don’t wish each other a “Happy Day of Atonement” because that doesn’t strike the somber, solemn tone of seeking God’s forgiveness, holiness, spiritual cleanliness, and the promise of eternal life.
Rather, Jews typically greet each other by saying in Hebrew, “G’mar Chatimah Tovah.”
Precisely translated, this means they are wishing each other “a good final sealing.”
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