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One of the most well-known symbols of Judaism, Chai is a Hebrew word that means ‘life’ or ‘living’. The word is spelt with two Hebrew letters – ‘chet’ and ‘yud’. Traditionally, every Hebrew letter has been assigned a numerical value. ‘Chet’ has been given the number 8 and ‘yud’ has got a value of 10. Together, they make 18, which has become the number of Chai.

The Jewish culture has always placed a special focus on life; loving and celebrating life has been an integral part of Judaism. As such, the word Chai holds a lot of significance for the Jews and it has come to symbolize the value of life and hope that sustains it. It also represents the personal will to live and is a reminder to the Jews to live and protect life.

“l’chaim”, meaning ‘to life’ is a popular Jewish toast that is said at celebratory occasions to welcome all the good things that are anticipated in the coming times. The word Chai also features in another oft-repeated Jewish phrase “am yisrael chai”, which means “the people of Israel live” and is a sort of prayer for the survival of the Jews for long into the future.


Due to its association with Chai, the number 18 is considered a spiritual and auspicious number by the Jews. They have a custom of giving out money in multiples of 18 for donations or at bar mitzvah, weddings and other festive events. This is seen as giving a gift of life and good luck.

The Chai symbol makes a popular jewelry piece. It is believed to have luck-bearing and protective properties and is worn by men as well as women. It is also widely seen in paintings, sculptures, tapestries and plaques.


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