A joint commission of Israeli and Jewish communal leaders is urging that the numerical translation of the word “chai,” long associated with good luck, be changed from 18 to 25 as a form of economic stimulus.
“We believe that by embarking on this policy of quantitative expansion, the Jewish community can jump-start the chai-based economy and spur an economic renaissance,” stated the commission’s report.
For centuries, Jewish donors have followed the superstitious practice of making their donations in multiples of 18, due to the long-standing association of the word chai (Hebrew for “life”) with good fortune and prosperity.
The current valuation of chai has also resulted in headaches for generations of b’not and b’nai mitzvah, who are forced to calculate the savings in their new bank accounts in multiples of 18.
The commission’s hope is that by raising the value of chai, gifts to Jewish causes will rise by a corresponding 39%.
But traditionalists have balked at the idea.
“Twenty-five is such a goyish number,” said Rabbi Milton Berlstein, of the Center for Chai Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. “Eighteen means life. You know what 25 means?” Berlstein then made an obscene gesture that cannot be described in a family newspaper.