Jews-for-Jesus vanity plate?

Who has a vanity plate reading ETRNL 18?

Spotted in Brentwood, on a small late-model Mercedes:


Now, the number 18 has significance in Judaism because 18 is the gematria – the sum of the numerical values of the letters – in the word chai

(the verb “lives” or “living”).

So the plate reads, roughly, “Eternal Life.”

But there’s just one little thing:  Judaism doesn’t put much stock in eternal life; that’s a Christian preoccupation. (The rewards promised  in the Torah for right living are all worldly:  children, long life, favorable weather for your crops.)

So, Watson, whoever picked out that vanity plate knows enough about Judaism to know that 18 is a lucky number having something to do with “life,” but doesn’t know enough Hebrew to understand that “life” would be chaim, not chai, and therefore would not have the numerical value 18. That person also wants to advertise both his Judaism and a Christian belief.

The owner is therefore a member of the Jews for Jesus, and [given the Mercedes]* has more money than brains.


* Updated, per a comment, to avoid the impression that I was casting aspersions on the intelligence of the Jews for Jesus. It’s a fair guess that someone who drives a Benz and can’t be bothered to look up the meaning of Chai has more money than brains.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

15 thoughts on “Jews-for-Jesus vanity plate?”

  1. More Money Than Brains: I think that’s the title of the final volume of the Oxford History of the United States.

  2. There are a lot more people who want to be 18 forever than there are Jews for Jesus.

  3. There are a lot more people who want to be 18 forever than there are Jews for Jesus.


    We have a winner!!

  4. Many outdoor education instruction texts use IIRC Angier’s How to Stay Alive in the Woods. He has a passage in there about how to keep your wits about you when you first figure out that you are lost and need to calm down: “the soundest reasoning leads to the wrongest conclusions when the premises are false.”

    Nonetheless, its a good anecdote and could be portrayed as conveying a message similar to the 90% bit of the other day.

  5. Anon: Actually, I thought of the Kabbalah Center. But although classical Kabbalism uses Gematriya, the KC website is silent on the subject. Perhaps they think it smacks of superstition.

  6. My guess is Ben Stein.

    He has a lot of money and not as much brains as he thinks he has, a not a Jew for Jeusus but one who makes common cause with the creationists. Long ago, I read his account of his first years in LA in the 70s, from which I remember this one anecdote: Stein allows how it didn’t take long for Hollywood culture to seep in, especially as concerns cars as statusmobiles. He really, really wanted a Mercedes but hesitated because of the German question. He mentioned his reservations to a Jewish friend in LA who drove a Mercedes. The friend replied, “If those Nazis in Stuttgart knew how much happiness their car was bringing this Jew, they’d plotz.” Or words to that effect.

  7. Horseball,

    did you mean to imply that it is typical of Jews for Jesus to have more money than brains? I think that is a rather snide thing to say about someone’s religion.

    It’s not about their religion, but about their brains. A “Jew for Jesus” who has a nickel has more money than brains.

    I don’t care about their religious beliefs. But the whole J for J business is a fraud. There’s no such thing as “Jews for Jesus,” any more than there’s such a thing as “Catholics for Zeus.”

  8. Horseball: I agree that making fun of other people’s religions is vulgar. “More money than brains” has to do with the Mercedes, plus the mistake about the meaning of “Chai.”

    Bernard Yomtov: All of the Apostles were Jews for Jesus, who was, of course, himself a Jew. And the early Christian Church was made up largely of Jews, who considered themselves Jewish despite their belief that R. Yeshua was the Moshiach. (No one doubts the Jewishness of the Chabadniks who believe that about Schneerson.) It wasn’t until the very end of the First Century that a rabbinic assembly formally declared that the Christians weren’t Jews. Big, big mistake, leading (according to my Jewish Dominican friend Jeremy Paretsky) to the anti-Semitism of the Gospel of John and almost two millennia of persecution. The attempt of the Jews for Jesus to rebuild a Jewish Christian sect strikes me as more sensible than the average attempt to found a new religion, though naturally I was brought up to despise conversos.

Comments are closed.