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During this past Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, whenever I wished someone Shanah Tovah or (G'mar) Chatimah Tovah s/he responded Gam L'mar.

I don't recall having heard that before this year. Doesn't Gam L'mar mean "Also to mister?" It seems like a 3rd person response. Why not say Gam Lecha - "To you too"?

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It once happened that Rav Huna was girded (his belt was) with a piece of straw and was standing before Rav. Rav said to him: What is this? Why are you dressed in this way? He said to him: I had no wine for sanctifying the day of Shabbat, so I pawned my belt, and with the proceeds I brought wine for sanctifying the day. Rav said to him: May it be God’s will that you be enveloped in silk [shira’ei] in reward for such dedication.

When Rabbah, his son, was married, Rav Huna, who was a short man, was lying on his bed, (and owing to his diminutive size he went unnoticed). His daughters and daughters-in-law came into the room and removed and threw their silk garments upon him until he was entirely enveloped in silk. With this, Rav’s blessing was fulfilled to the letter. When Rav heard about this, he became upset with Rav Huna, and said: What is the reason that when I blessed you, you did not respond in kind and say to me: And likewise to the Master? וכן למר? "V'Chen L'Mar?

-Talmud Megillah 27b

Gam L'Mar means "also to the master" (which is where "mister" comes from)

V'chen L'Mar means "and so to the master"; which is the same thing.

Speaking to someone in the third person is considered a mark of respect. (e.g. "Would His Majesty approve?" "Would the Rosh Yeshivah be davening Minchah now with us?") Talking to a respected personage by calling them "you" in second person assumes too much familiarity and could be deemed disrespectful. A student does not address a master by saying "you" since that would assume he is his peer or chummy friend. He says: "How is master?" etc.

  • Very interesting source of info. I don't quite see how to extrapolate this response t Rosh Hashanna greetings or other similar situations. Is this to be considered the standard response to any greeting? Should people respond Gam L'mar when someone says Mazal Tov or Shabbat Shalom to you? – DanF Sep 26 '18 at 14:42
  • The Rosh H' and YK "Shanah Tovah" or "G'mar Chatimah Tovah" (good year, or good final seal) implies a wish for a good decree. So the response is that you too should have a good decree (similar to the Gemara above). A greeting that implies no well - wishing at all ("Hi there.") would not seem to require "Gam L'Mar." So if I wish you a good year, the Gemara is claiming that my wish can open up an "Eys Ratzon" in heaven (auspicious time) so you should wish it back on me so both wishes come true. – David Kenner Sep 26 '18 at 15:18
  • Simply put, if someone greets you with some sort of blessing or good wishes, then a "Gam L'Mar" is an appropriate response. – David Kenner Sep 26 '18 at 15:24

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