Lucky Number 18 – The Meaning of "Chai"
One of the fundamental principal in the Jewish faith is the importance of life. Given to people and all living beings by G-d, life is a precious thing. One of the most common blessings in Hebrew is "L'chaim!" literally meaning is "to life!", which often accompanies toasting. This blessing has been immortalized in a song from the famous play "Fiddler on the Roof".
The Hebrew word "Chai", which means "alive", carries a special significance in the Jewish faith. In the Hebrew alphabet, the word is written using two letters – Het and Yud. The total numerological value of both letters is 18, and for this reason the number 18 is considered to have mystical lucky traits. Even though the common order of numerological writing places the Yud (the letter with the higher numeric value – 10) before the Het, "Chai" is the acceptable form of writing and pronunciation, due to its special meaning.
Donations and celebration gifts by Jewish believers are sometimes announced by multiples of 18 (for example, a person is praised for donating "ten times chai Shekalim" – ten times 18 NIS). When praying for the life of a person who is serious ill, some add a variant on the word "Chai"
to his name – "Chaim" for men or "Chaia" for women.
The word "Chai" became a source of national pride in Israel following the 1983 Eurovision singing contest, which was held in Germany. In the contest, Israeli singer Ofra Haza has performed the song "Chai", written by renowned Israeli songwriter Ehud Manor. Hearing the Hebrew song performed in Germany less than four decades after the horrors of the holocaust, especially in light of the chorus "Ani Od Chai" ("I am alive") was a touching experience for many Israelis. The song won the second place in the contest, and launched Haza's international career as one of the biggest stars in World Music.
In Israel, "Chai" is also a fashion statement. Jewelry featuring the word "Chai" are common gifts to young people before their recruitment to the army, as a way of wishing them a safe military service. Singers in the popular oriental music genre, as well as Israeli rappers and sports fans often also wear jewelry that feature the word "Chai" – as a way of celebrating the joy of life and the deep belief in G-d.
Above all, the phrase "Am Israel Chai" ("Israel is Alive") became popular in Israel, symbolizing the continuity of Jewish existence throughout history. The phrase also became part of several popular songs – here is one of them, performed by Jewish youth in Jerusalem:
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