Chai, Its Meaning and Significance

Chai

In Judaism, what does "Chai" mean?

The word "chai' translated from Hebrew to English means "life." Within the Jewish faith, the word "chai" possesses both numerical and symbolic meaning. The Hebrew word consists of two (2) letters in the alphabet: Chet (ח) and Yud (י). Together these letters form "chai" which signifies life and represents being alive.

The Numerical Significance of Chai

In Judaism, the word "chai" is numerically significant and the number 18 is universally synonymous with this word. Numerically, the words consists of the eighth (8th) and tenth (10th) letters of the Hebrew alphabet Chet (ח) and Yud (י), adding up to eighteen the number 18, which is also the word "Chai". According to Jewish traditions and scriptures there are prayers, including the Amidah, commonly referred to as “Shmoneh Esreh” (which translates to “the 18”) and refers to the eighteen individual prayers. There is a deep connection drawn upon the word 'chai', its meaning 'life' and the numerical value of the letters that comprise this word.

The Symbolic Meaning of Chai

Traditionally, the Jewish religion, similar to many other religions and cultures, place an emphasis on the significance of life. As such, the literal translation of the word "chai' to 'life is meaningful on its face. In addition, individuals who observe Judaism or identify with the religion are generally guided by basic principals which include characteristics such as kindness, thoughtfulness, selflessness and remaining good natured, both morally and ethically during life on Earth. In addition to the number 18 or numerical significance, the "Chai" is a recognizable symbol commonly worn on necklaces and engraved on rings.

Gifts of "Chai" ("$18")

In Judaism, it is common to give and receive gifts in multiples of $18 or "Chai", which in part signifies a good omon for life. In fact, the longstanding Jewish tradition of gifting, contributing or donating in increments of $18 to individuals is often considered a good deed and mitzvah. Generally, these gifting rituals take place in connection with the celebration, honoring or remembrance of loved ones. This custom is also common during all life-cycle events, including rites of passage, and any Jewish occasion from birth announcements and weddings to expressing condolences. The act of giving, gifting or donating $18 or a multiples thereof is commonly referred to as "giving chai." This nomenclature extends to multiples as the number 36 is commonly referred to as "double Chai". Symbolically, these gestures are representative of giving a gift of 'life".

 


 

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