Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah Gift Guide: Why 18 is the Magic Number | MitzvahMarket | MitzvahMarket

Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah Gift Guide: Why 18 is the Magic Number

Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah Gift Guide: Why 18 is the Magic Number

By Vered Ornstein

Eighteen- the Magic Number

As autumn approaches and a new school year is set to begin, bar mitzvah season is likewise gearing up once again. When invitations to every classmate, camp friend, and cousin’s Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah start flooding your mailbox, the idea of finding a unique, meaningful gift for every party you attend can feel overwhelming (and we all know teens can be hard to please, too). Luckily, Jewish tradition has a failsafe in place for all those challenged to give a gift that fits the tone of such a monumental occasion- the number 18.



If you’re new to or unfamiliar with some Jewish traditions, you may be surprised to learn that 18 is a number that holds great significance. Though seemingly random upon first glance, a deeper look at the number’s makeup uncovers a powerful hidden meaning. Gematria is an ancient system of Hebrew numerology, meaning that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is assigned a numerical value. Through this system, the word chai (pronounced like hi, not like the tea), which means “life”, is made up of two letters whose values add up to- you guessed it, 18.


The Gift of Life

Since chai is such an important number in Jewish practice, it only makes sense that it’s become a popular jumping off point for things like wedding and Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts, especially monetary ones. When hosting a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you can expect to receive checks or cash in multiples of 18 dollars, with $18, $36, and $180 being the most common ones. If you are invited to a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah party, it is customary to give a gift in this amount, because by giving chai, you are figuratively giving someone the gift of life.


Alternatives to Money

If you’re looking to go beyond cash or a check as a gift for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, here are some ways to still incorporate chai into your gifting.


  1. Donation

Instead of giving the Bar/Bat Mitzvah teen themself a multiple of $18, inquire about their interests, favorite charities, or any causes they’re supporting with a Mitzvah project. By donating to something important to the teen, you’re showing you support their passions!


  1. Chai Necklace

For those who wear jewelry, a necklace with the Hebrew word chai on it is a perfect way to give a gift that hearkens back to the idea of living a full and meaningful life. These necklaces can be easily found online in a variety of different shapes, colors, and layouts. For an added touch, get it engraved with the teen’s name or the date of their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah.

An example of a chai necklace charm


  1. Multiples of 18

Multiples of 18 can apply to any gift, not just money. Giving one gift made up of 18 smaller gifts will incorporate the number without being too on-the-nose. Maybe this looks like 18 vintage baseball cards, or 18 prints from a beloved artist, or a gift bag with 18 singular items the teen may like.


  1. Get Creative

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts! If you have a knack for art and creativity, there are so many ways to incorporate chai and 18 into a handmade gift. A painting could feature the chai symbol or number 18. A piece of knitwear made with 18 different fabrics will subtly incorporate the number. A mixtape with 18 tracks is personal and meaningful. No matter where your creative talents lie, it is easy to include 18 in big and small ways!


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