Written and Sealed in the Book of Life in Rosh HaShana
In anticipation of the coming year, we wish one another "Shana Tova, Tikateivu V'Techateimu" - A Good New Year, May You Be Written And Sealed (in the Book of Life). This traditional wish we give one another is even mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law. There, the practice of wishing each other a good year is brought down with an important nuance: this line - to be written and sealed in the Book of Life - is only to be used through the first night of Rosh HaShana. After the morning services on the first day of Rosh HaShana, our wish to one another changes. We then start to wish each other "Gemar Chatima Tova" - the Completion of the Sealing (should be) Good. In other words, we no longer address the writing, but only the sealing.
In contrast, our own davening still refers to both the writing and sealing for the good, in terms of our destiny for the coming year. This prayer remains as such all the way until the final Neila service of Yom Kippur, and only then is switched to praying for a good completion of the sealing (and thus no longer addressing the writing).
The bottom line is that our fate can be changed, even at the very last minute. And with Teshuva ("repentance"), Tefila ("prayer") and Tzedaka ("charity"), we can remove any bad decrees (G-d Forbid). Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka are therefore the three main things that we're busy with all the way until the end of this time of judgment, namely from before Rosh HaShana until the final moments of Yom Kippur. In our own prayers, we assume of ourselves that it is NEVER too late, and we can make things better.
If that's the case, why then do we treat others differently, and assume that their fate for the coming year is already written at the beginning of Rosh HaShana, and has only to be sealed?
We are taught that we are grouped into 3 types of people on Rosh HaShana: the righteous, the mediocre, the evil. Our deeds determine into which group we fall for the coming year. Ultimately, since no one can remain neutral (mediocre), all people fit into either the righteous, or the opposite (G-d Forbid). We are taught that the completely righteous, the tzaddikim, are immediately written into the Book of Life. For ourselves, we assume that we're mediocre, and we try our best to effect change all the way until the last moment possible, to get ourselves into the Book of Life with the Righteous. But for our family and friends, all those around us, we actually assume they are righteous and were therefore written immediately into the Book of Life! That's why our wish to others is different immediately on Rosh HaShana.
Remember, that's the halacha as brought down in the Shulchan Aruch – the ruling according to Jewish Law - to greet others that way. So it's really a mitzva to assume that everyone around us is a tzaddik!
And you wouldn't have it any other way, because otherwise, what kind of people do you surround yourself with?! What would that say about you?! Of course everyone around you is written straight away into the Book of Life. They're all sweet and holy souls! It's the halacha to believe that.Wishing each and every one of you tzaddikim a great year, a year of abundance, health, happiness, peace, love… and as of Thursday morning, a Gemar Chatima Tova!