G'mar Hatima Tova is a phrase Jewish people around the world when they greet each other in a season called Yom Kippur.
It means May you be sealed in the Book of Life.
Before we go any further, I wish you a personal greeting like that, adding that my sincere wish is that you too will have your name inscribed in the Book of Life.
This annual event is the holiest day of all in the Jewish calendar that is like the climax of a ten-day period known as The days of awe.
In Hebrew, Yom means “day” and Kippur means “to atone” so it is it is also known as the Day of Atonement. What follows next is another special event called Sukkot, also known as the Feast of tabernacles. As it is with other Jewish feasts like Shavuot and Passover, they all have enormous prophetic significance to us.
Whilst Yom Kippur is a solemn event, Sukkot is totally different, being a time of great rejoicing.
I will touch firstly on G’mar Hatima Tova, then share a thought on Sukkot.
Yom Kippur is a serious and solemn day, so people do not greet each other with a “Happy Yom Kippur”.
The reason is that Jews believe that the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and is sealed at the end of Yom Kippur following the period of repentance. It is considered important because they believe that this determines their fate for the coming year.
Traditionally, Jews believe that God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life to live for another year after judging their deeds over the past year. Others simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently in the coming year, just as we in the Western world make New Year resolutions that are often forgotten.
Yom Kippur is “the tenth day of the seventh month” known as Tishrei and it is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” It is a period of time where Jews are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family and to prepare to improve for the year to come.
When Yom Kippur begins, Jews are prohibited from eating or drinking, bathing, anointing the body with oil, wearing leather shoes and having any sexual relations.
During Yom Kippur (a 25-hour period) five synagogue services are conducted and a special memorial service is held for those who have died during the year. The Yom Kippur services contain many recitations of something called Vidui (confession) and a list of communal transgressions for which Jews ask for forgiveness.
Jewish believers in Jesus spend the day in similar manner, but with a difference. They give thanks that their names are indeed written in the book of life, as are ours. We see mention of this in Exodus 32:32-33, Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:17 and 22:19. Those dear brethren usually wear white garments on this day, symbolizing purity and the promise in Isaiah 1:18 saying that our sins would be as white as snow.
On this day of atonement, we can think of Leviticus chapter sixteen, where God told Moses to instruct Aaron that he could not come into the holy place at any time he wanted because if he did, he would die.
He laid down strict guidelines on how to make his approach.