I have to say, the number 18 was never my “lucky” number as a kid. Probably like many of you, I based my lucky number on my favorite athlete’s jersey. For me, it was soccer star, Christine Lily’s, #13, but perhaps you always went for Michael Jordan’s #23.
In mystical Judaism, numbers and letters have a special relationship that gives certain numbers, like 18, a unique standing in the Jewish community. In the Jewish tradition of Gematria, the letters of the Aleph-Bet correspond to numbers: Aleph is 1, Bet is 2…Yud is 10, Yud-Aleph is 11, etc.. To get to the number 18, we add together the Chet (8) and the Yud (10), and what does that spell? — חי chai, meaning “alive.”
Phrases like l’chaim, לחיים “to life,” ring out during celebrations and joyous gatherings. Perhaps you shouted a hardy “L’chaim!” as the clock struck midnight and we entered the year 2018 (20חי). We are constantly wishing each other a long life of health and prosperity, all of which our tradition likes to put on this magical number, 18! This has led to gift-giving and donations made in increments of 18 as well as the wearing of the חי as a charm on a necklace.
Even though the Jewish community celebrated New Year’s a few months back, many in our community still gathered with friends on January 1st to ring in the new secular year.
Do you remember what resolutions you made for yourself on Rosh Hashanah? Have you made the changes you hoped? Have you accomplished the goals you set? We’re now three months out, with another “new year” upon us. Will you revisit your resolutions? Will you set new ones?
In the year of chai, the year of life (and maybe a bit of luck), I know I’d like to get outside more and experience all that is living around me — that was one of my new year’s resolutions. A deep breath of fresh air can awaken my soul, and I want to feel more of that.
What will you do to feel alive this year in the year of chai?
Chai-ppy New Year everyone,