Meaning of the Hebrew Word, "Chai"
The First 10 Letters of the Hebrew Alphabet
Chai, which means "Life" is one of the most recognizable symbols of Judaism. Comprised of the letters Chet and Yud, together they form the word "Chai" - a word that reflects the importance of life in Judaism. The "ch" in Chai is pronounced like the -ch in the word, "Bach" and NOT like the "ch" in the word "choo-choo."
According to the Gematria, a Jewish mystical tradition that assigns a numerological value to Hebrew letters, the Chet has a value of 8 and the Yud has a value of 10, adding up to the number 18 (Hebrew is read from right to left). Because of this, the number 18 represents good luck and gifts are often given in multiples of Chai, or 18. It symbolizes giving the recipient the gift of "life" or luck.
The Chai symbol is often worn on a necklace, like other Jewish symbols such as the Star of David and the hamsa. It is a popular symbol also seen in sculptures, paintings, plaques, and tapestries.
A celebratory Jewish toast is "L'chaim!," which means, "To life!" Below is a clip from the classic movie, "Fiddler on the Roof" where the song, "L'Chaim" is sung to celebrate an upcoming planned marriage (which doesn't happen).
L'Chaim! from "Fiddler on the Roof"
If you enjoyed this article about the meaning of Chai, you may also be interested in:
- The Jewish Star of David
- Symbolism of the Pomegranate
- Symbolism of the Miriam's Cup
- What is a Mezuzah?
- See our collection of handmade Chai Jewelry