Rabbi’s Study

Common Hebrew Greetings

On the Sabbath

Shabbat Shalom (shah-BAHT shah-LOHM)

Literally, Sabbath peace or peaceful Sabbath. This is an appropriate greeting at any time on Shabbat, commonly used at the end of a Shabbat synagogue service.

Shavua Tov (shah-VOO-ah TOHV)

Literally, Good Week. This greeting is used after havdalah, the ceremony marking the conclusion of the Sabbath, to wish someone a good week.

Other Expressions

Shalom (shah-LOHM) Hear It

Hebrew. Literally, peace. Used as either “Hello” or “Goodbye.”

Mazel Tov (MAH-zl tov) Hear It

Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, Good luck! This is a traditional way of expressing congratulations. “Mazel tov!” is the appropriate response upon hearing of an engagement, marriage, birth, bar/bat mitzvah, graduation, new job or other good news. This term is not used to mean “good luck” as we use it in English in regard to future events. Quite simply, it expresses pleasure at someone else’s good news.

Yasher koach (YAH-shehr KOH-ahkh)

Hebrew. A way of congratulating someone for performing a good deed or participating in some aspect of the synagogue service. This expression wishes its recipient the strength to continue doing this good deed or service to the community.

L’Chayim (li-KHY-eem)

Yiddish/Hebrew. Literally, To Life. The toast offered before drinking wine or other beverages, used like “Cheers!” in English.

Holiday Greetings

Chag Sameach (KHAHG sah-MAY-ahkh)

Hebrew. Literally, Happy Holiday. This is a greeting for most Jewish holidays.

Gut Yontiff (GOOT YOHN-tiff)

Yiddish. Literally, Good Holiday. Used for any Jewish holiday.

Shanah Tovah (Li-shah-NAH toh-VAH) Hear It

Hebrew. Literally, Good Year. A common greeting from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur.

G’mar Tov

Hebrew. Literally, a Good Finish. This is the proper greeting for Yom Kippur. It expresses your wish that the person be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. People also frequently wish one another “an easy fast.” It’s not appropriate to wish someone a Happy Yom Kippur, as this is not a happy holiday.