Jewish greetings

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Le'Shana Tova Tikatevu, greeting card from Montevideo, 1932.

There are several Jewish and Hebrew greetings, farewells, and phrases that are used in Judaism, and in Jewish and Hebrew-speaking communities around the world. Even outside Israel, Hebrew is an important part of Jewish life.[1] Many Jews, even if they don't speak Hebrew fluently, will know several of these greetings (most are Hebrew, some are Yiddish).[1]

Shabbat[edit]

For the Sabbath, there are several greetings that Jews use to greet one another.

PhraseHebrew scriptTranslationPronunciationLanguageExplanation
Shabbat shalomשַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹםPeaceful Sabbath[ʃaˈbat ʃaˈlom]HebrewUsed any time on Shabbat, especially at the end of a Shabbat service. Used also preceding Shabbat (in Israel) almost like "have a good weekend."[2]
Gut Shabbes
Good Shabbos
גוּט שַׁבָּת
Good Shabbos
Good Sabbath[ɡʊt ˈʃabəs]Yiddish/EnglishUsed any time on Shabbat, especially in general conversation or when greeting people.[2]
Gut Voch
Shavua tov
גוט וואָך
שָׁבוּעַ טוֹב
Good week[ʃaˈvu.a tov]Yiddish/HebrewUsed on Saturday nights (after Havdalah) and even on Sundays "shavua tov" is used to wish someone a good coming week.[2]

Holidays[edit]

For different chagim and Yom Tov there are different expressions used.

PhraseHebrew scriptTranslationPronunciationLanguageExplanation
Chag sameachחַג שָׂמֵחַHappy holiday[χaɡ saˈme.aχ]HebrewUsed as a greeting for the holidays, can insert holiday name in the middle; e.g. "chag Chanukah sameach".[2] Also, for Passover, "chag kasher v'same'ach" (חַג כָשֵׁר וְשָׂמֵחַ) meaning wishing a happy and kosher holiday.[2]
Moed tov
Moadim l'simcha
מועד טובֿ
מועדים לשמחה
A good festival period
A happy festival period
[ˈmo.ed tov
mo.aˈdim l.simˈχa]
HebrewUsed as a greeting during the chol ha-moed (intermediate days) of the Passover and Sukkot holidays.
Gut Yontiv
Good Yontiv
גוט יום־טובֿGood Yom Tov[ɡʊt ˈjɔntɪv]Yiddish/EnglishUsed as a greeting for the Yom Tov holidays.[2]
L'shanah tovahלְשָׁנָה טוֹבָהTo a good year[leʃaˈna toˈva]HebrewUsed as a greeting during Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe, Also used, simply "shanah tovah" (שָׁנָה טוֹבָה), meaning "a good year", or "shana tova u'metukah" (שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה) meaning "a good and sweet year".[2] The phrase is short for "l'shanah tovah tikatevu ve techatemu" (לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵּחָתֵמוּ), meaning "may you be inscribed and sealed (in the Book of Life) for a good year".[3] A shorter version is often used: "ktiva ve chatima tova" (כְּתִיבָה וְחֲתִימָה טוֹבָה), meaning "(have a) good signature (in the Book of Life)" and literally "good inscribing and signing".[3]
Tzom kalצוֹם קַלEasy fast[tsom kal]HebrewUsed to wish someone well for Yom Kippur. The word "happy" is not used because Yom Kippur is meant to be somber holiday, not a happy one.[2]
G'mar Chatima Tovahגמר חתימה טובהMay you be inscribed for good [in the Book of Life][]HebrewUsed to wish someone well for Yom Kippur. Tradition teaches that our fate is written on Rosh Hashanah and is sealed on Yom Kippur.[4]

Greetings and farewells[edit]

There are several greetings and good-byes used in Hebrew to say hello and farewell to someone.

PhraseHebrew scriptTranslationPronunciationLanguageExplanation
ShalomשָׁלוֹםHello, goodbye, peace[ʃaˈlom]HebrewA Hebrew greeting, based on the root for "completeness". Literally meaning "peace", shalom is used for both hello and goodbye.[5] A cognate with the Arabic-language salaam.
Shalom aleichemשָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶםPeace be upon you[ʃaˈlom ʔaˈlejχem]HebrewThis form of greeting was traditional among the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The appropriate response is "Aleichem Shalom" (עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם) or "Upon you be peace." (cognate with the Arabic-language "assalamu alaikum" meaning "The peace [of Allah] be upon you.)"

Phrases[edit]

These are Hebrew phrases used in Jewish communities both inside and outside of Israel.[1]

WordHebrew scriptTranslationPronunciationLanguageExplanation
Mazel tovמַזָּל טוֹבGood luck[maˈzal tov]
[ˈmazəl tɔv]
Hebrew/YiddishUsed to mean congratulations. Used in Hebrew (mazal tov) or Yiddish. Used on to indicate good luck has occurred, ex. birthday, bar mitzvah, a new job, or an engagement.[1] Also shouted out at Jewish weddings when the groom (or both fiances) stomps on a glass. It is also used when someone accidentally breaks a glass or a dish.[1] However, NOT normally used on news of a pregnancy, where it is replaced by "b'sha'ah tovah" ("may it happen at a good time/in the proper time").[6]
B'karov etzlech (f.)
B'karov etzlecha (m.)
בְּקָרוֹב אֶצְלְךָSoon so shall it be by you[bekaˈʁov ʔetsˈleχ]
[bekaˈʁov ʔetsleˈχa]
HebrewUsed in response to "mazal tov"[1]
B'ezrat HaShemבְּעֶזְרָת הַשֵּׁםWith God's help[beʔezˈʁat haˈʃem]HebrewUsed by religious Jews when speaking of the future and wanting God's help (similar to "God willing").[1]
Yishar koachיְשַׁר כֹּחַYou should have strength[jiˈʃaʁ ˈko.aχ]HebrewMeaning "good for you", "way to go", or "more power to you". Often used in synagogue after someone has received an honour. The proper response is "baruch teheyeh" (m)/brucha teeheyi (f) meaning "you shall be blessed."[1] [7]
Chazak u'varuchחֵזָק וּבָרוךְBe strong and blessed[χaˈzak uvaˈʁuχ]HebrewUsed in Sephardi synagogues after an honour. The response is "chazak ve'ematz" ("be strong and have courage")
Nu? ?נוSo?[nu]YiddishA Yiddish interjection used to inquire about how everything went.[1]
Kol ha kavodכֹּל הַכָּבוֹדAll of the honour[kol hakaˈvod]HebrewUsed for a job well done.[1]
L'chaimלְחַיִּיםTo life[leχaˈjim]
[ləˈχajm]
Hebrew/YiddishHebrew and Yiddish equivalent of saying "cheers" when doing a toast[1]
GesundheitגעזונטהייטHealth[ɡəˈzʊnthɛjt]YiddishYiddish (and German) equivalent of saying "bless you" when someone sneezes. Also sometimes "tsu gezunt".[2]
LabriutלבריאותGood health[labʁiˈʔut]HebrewHebrew equivalent of saying "bless you" when someone sneezes.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]