The Jewish Concept of “Chai,” by Rhona Kirsner

For many years, Rhona Kirsner has played an active role in the B’Nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton, Florida. She has been a Golden Chai member of the congregation, a status named after the Jewish concept of “Chai.”

In Hebrew, “Chai” translates to “life.” Some claim that it refers to the Living God, though many others claim it simply emphasizes the importance of life in the Jewish culture. The Chai symbol can frequently be found on jewelry items and, when worn, serves as testament to a person’s Jewish identity. These charms have, as a result, become popular gifts to babies and young children.

The word Chai is made up of two Hebrew letters, Chet and Yud. Chet also signifies the number eight and Yud means 10; therefore, Chai also translates to the number 18. For this reason, many Jews make charitable donations in multiples of 18 in deference to the concept of life.