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What Is a Chai?

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The Hebrew
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Definition:

Chai (חי) is a Hebrew word and symbol that means “life.” It is spelled with the Hebrew letters Het (ח) and Yud (י). Jews will often wear a Chai on a necklace, sometimes with a Star of David or Hamsa.

Chai is pronounced as if you were saying “hi” in English.

The Symbolic Meaning of Chai

Judaism is a religion that emphasizes the importance of life. Jews are encouraged to be good, ethical people (mensches) and enjoy the time they are given on Earth. A common Jewish toast is “l’chaim!,” which means, “to life!.” It is said at celebrations in anticipation of all the good things to come.

Because it means “life,” the Chai is consequently a symbol that captures an important aspect of Judaism. According to the gematria, which is a mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters, the letters Het (ח) and Yud (י) add up to the number 18. The Het has a value of 8 and the yud has a value of 10. As a result, 18 is a popular number that represents good luck. At weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events Jews often give gifts of money in multiples of 18, symbolically giving the recipient the gift of “life” or luck.

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