Chai, which means “alive” in Hebrew, is one of the most recognizable and popular symbols of Judaism. Comprised of the letters Chet and Yud, Chai is a Hebrew word which has been transformed into a virtual sign, one reflecting Judaism’s most cherished value, the preciousness of life itself.
The value of life has always been a central focus of Judaism, one that takes precedence (except in a few select cases) over the Torah itself when one’s life is threatened. As it is explicitly written, v’chai bahem, “that you will live through them” (the mitzvot), and not die through them. At the same time, there is the goal of maximizing this life, and to that end, the Chai is also a reminder of how a person should live, as ethical, moral beings. The Chai symbol also represents faith in the eternal power of the Jewish nation (“Am Yisrael Chai”), defying the natural laws of history by not only continuing to exist after over 2000 years of exile, but thriving as well, and now returning to their homeland, Israel, to fulfill their ultimate destiny.
Today, the Chai symbol is most common as a jewelry piece, especially Chai pendants and necklaces. Its elegant form serves as powerful symbol of identity and faith, connecting the wearer to the energies of being, morality and eternity.