WHY WE GIVE GIFTS IN INCREMENTS OF 18 (AND OTHER SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS)
Jewish people everywhere understand the significance of words. We've got an expression or a Yiddish proverb to describe nearly everything! However, what many people may not know is the special connection we have to certain numbers and how many signify luck, life and prosperity. Check out some of the significant numbers below!
Most people are familiar with the significance of the number "18."
When it comes to a wedding, a bar or bat mitzvah, a bris or any other special occasion, Jewish people often give gifts in intervals of 18 (18, 36, 54, 72, etc.) But what is the significance of 18 and why is it so symbolically important to us?
In Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value. The number 10 is the letter Yud and the number 8 is the letter Het. Combined, these letters mean “Chai” or “Life.”
Giving a gift that honors and commemorates “Life” or “Chai” is good luck according to our tradition and blesses the recipients with health, longevity, luck and abundance.
18, however, isn't the only significant number in Judaism ...
The number 7 holds a spiritual and significant amount of merit to the Jewish people and our history. Shabbat falls on the 7th day of the week, the menorah in the Temple has seven branches, the bride traditionally circles the groom seven times underneath the chuppah and receives seven blessings during the wedding ceremony. Beyond this, there are several female prophets named in the Talmud and seven major Jewish holidays that fall throughout the year (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot. On a slightly more morbid note, Jewish people traditionally sit Shiva for seven days after the passing of a loved one. All of this, of course, is to commemorate the belief that God created the world in seven days.
While 18 is the number we're most likely to link to "luck" the number 28 also carries a beautiful significance as it is associated with "Koah" meaning strength. It is commonly used in saying "Yasher Koah" which is a congratulatory message often used when someone reads from the torah or reaches a significant ceremonious in the community.
4 & 40
The numbers 4 and 40 appear throughout the Talmud and hold a high level of significance in Jewish history and stories. There are four matriarchs, four patriarchs, four wives of Jacob and four types of sons in the Passover Haggadah. It took 40 years to cross the desert to get to Israel (what a schlep!), a mikvah (ritual bath) must have 40 seahs of "living water" which of course aligns with the 40 days of flooding during the times of Noah. Beyond this, the number 40 has the ability to enhance one's spiritual state, according to a 16th century Talmudic scholar from Prague named Rabbi Yehudah Loew ben Bezalel. As a mid-thirtysomethibng, I'm ready to say 40 is the new 18!