Jewish Jewelry and More: The History of Chai

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Published: 06th January 2011
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Judaism is a religion that is rich in both culture and tradition. Like other religions, there are certain symbols associated with Judaism. The most popular symbol that both both Jews and non-Jews know about is the Star of David. However, for those not familiar with the religion, another common symbol is the Chai. Chai is the Hebrew word for "life" and is spelled with the Hebrew letters Het and Yud. Occasionally it is spelled "Hai,"but it most commonly seen as "Chai."



Although life is seen as sacred in all religions, Judaism places a special emphasis on the importance of life. They are always encouraged to live good, moral, and fulfilling lives and to make the best use of this brief time on Earth. You'll often hear Jews make a toast saying "l'chaim," which means "to life." Therefore, the Chai is a very important symbol to the Jewish people. It's very common to see the symbol used in Jewish jewelry - often on a necklace in conjunction with the Star of David or Hamsa.



Chai is more than just a word though. It also has a numerical meaning as well. According to the gematria, a tradition that assigns numerical values to Hebrew letters, the letters Het and Yud add up to the number eighteen. Het has a value of eight and Yud has a value of ten. Because of this, the number eighteen is viewed as a very important number and represents good luck. For many Jewish celebrations, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs, monetary gifts are given in multiples of eighteen. Symbolically, the person is giving the recipient the gift of life or good luck. "Giving Chai," whether it's through Jewish jewelry or money, is one of the best gifts a person can give.



While the most common use of the symbol is seen on Jewish jewelry, that doesn't stop others from adorning other items with the symbol of life. If you search hard enough, you can find Chai on everything from t-shirts to hats to mugs. Many pendants and other pieces of Jewish jewelry will combine the symbol with the Star of David -with Chai directly in the middle of the star. You can even find it decorating Jewish garments such as tallits. For those unaware, a tallit is prayer shawl worn during morning prayers on weekdays, Shabbat, and holidays.



As people's interest in Judaism and spirituality increase, so does the popularity of the Chai. It's not hard to find medallions and charm bracelets using the symbol. There are even bracelets that contain eighteen strands of gold or silver to bring the bearer good luck. Sometimes it is attached to a red string which is associated with Judaism's Kabbalah. The red string is meant to ward off misfortune brought about by the "evil eye." The bracelet is made of red wool thread and worn on the left wrist.



The next time you need wedding gifts or want to get something special for someone you care about, think about giving them life. The Chai is a beautiful symbol that any person would be proud to wear.





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