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The Chai, can also be seen with the English spelling of Cha’i, is a Jewish symbol for Life and is both a Hebrew and a Yiddish word. In both languages it is spelled the same, composed of two Hebrew letters with numeric values: the eighth letter Chet, ×, and the tenth letter Yod, ×™. Together their added value is 18, a number of significant importance in the Jewish religion. According to the mystical tradition of Gematria, the number 18 represents good luck and has a protective value. It is a spiritual symbol steeped in ancient history and has a relationship to charity. When making contributions, there are a large number of Jewish people who will make donations in multiples of . It is also a favorite way to give someone a monetary Jewish gift in multiples of 18 for a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat Mitzvah.

There are various meanings associated with the number 18 in the Jewish religion. Eighteen is perceived as a basic tenet of life. G-d’s name, HaShem, is in the daily prayer, the Shema, 18 times. In the prayer, Shemone Esreh, there are 18 blessings. The dough used for the Passover Matzos must be made and baked in 18 minutes or it will not be usable for Passover blessings. The Mishna, the foundation of Jewish law, states that at the age of 18 a person is ready for marriage and to start new life.

A very traditional good wish and a toast often heard at happy occasions is ‘L’Chaim’, with a literal translation of ‘To Life.’ Jewish parents have named their children with life word as the root for the names. Males are named Chaim and females are named Chaya. The Chai is a popular pendant worn on a chain by both men and women as a sign of pride in their heritage, their religion and as an amulet for good luck and a long life. The charm on a necklace, a key chain, a pair of earrings, a Mezuzah, or a modern Judaica piece of artwork makes for a very thoughtful Jewish gift for a friend or family member.

The quadrennial international Jewish athletic games, the Maccabia, are held in Israel and there are Gold, Silver and Bronze medals presented to the winners in the same fashion as the Olympics. All of the athletes must be either Jewish or Israeli; this means that Arab Israelis can also participate. The is one of the symbols inscribed on the Maccabia medals. The significance of the symbol on the medallions is a perfect complement for the frequently cited slogan, “Am Yisrael Chai”, meaning both , “The Nation of Israel lives”, and “the People of Israel live.”

In August 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Wannsee Villa in Berlin, Germany. In 1942, Adolph Hitler and his inner council used that location to plan the ‘Final Solution’ for the annihilation of Europe’s Jewish population. Prime Minister Netanyahu signed the visitors’ book with three words in Hebrew and then wrote the translation in English: “Am Yisrael Chai – The people of Israel live.” It was meant to be, and was received as, a very meaningful and powerful statement. That inscription boldly said that not only did Hitler’s plan for the end of Judaism fail, but years later it would be the Prime Minister of a prosperous Jewish State who would come to the same building where the death plot was conceived and declare to the world that: The Nation of Israel lives!
The is a widely recognized symbolic sign for the tenacious and fierce determination of the Jewish people to continue to live and to thrive. The represents a central tenet of Judaism in the personal will for life and to celebrate life. The eternal hope of the Jewish population is for a peaceful existence. The is artfully displayed in many colors and in a variety of printed scripts on beautifully framed collectible Judaica. The word Judaica refers to an ancient object as well as a Jewish gift and it stems from the time that the ancient Hebrew people lived in the region of Judea.

It doesn’t matter if someone is donating, gifting, collecting or wearing a ; it will be meant as the symbol, the pride and the relationship of both the giver and the receiver as their connection with their faith and ethnic beliefs for both today and for the entire Jewish nation across all the centuries of Judaism.

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