Thursday, 13 December 2018
(Reading time: 3 - 5 minutes)

Dreidels and Hanukkah

Dreidels - plural for Dreidel is a Yiddish word for a spinning top. The Hebrew word is סביבוןsevivon. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

dreidels

Dreidels are used by kids to play games during Hanukkah.  Dreidels are not just  simple toys - they are laced with hidden messages. Rav Nissim Mordechai Makor tells us more;

There a 4 Hebrew letters on every dreidel; Nun Gimmel Shin and Hey (נ ג ש ה).  These four letters can be placed in different sequences for example; Nun Gimmel Hey Shin - this acronym stands for the phrase Ness Gadol Haya Sham - a great miracle happened there.
The four letters, in a different order, spell the word “Goshnah.” - גשנה  -
Rav Makor tells us that Yaacov sent Yehudah ahead to Egypt to establish a Yeshiva in Goshen (גשן), Genesis 46:28. Yaacov knew that the first exile was starting and was thus planting seeds to ensure that the Jews would survive as Torah learning is the root of our survival. He was also knew there would be four more exiles and he was preparing for a refuah/ healing for those exiles.
The Torah in Exodus 2:23, describes the period of Egyptian bondage with the words;
“Yamim harabim/many days.” The four letters of rabim (ר ב י מ) represent the names;
Romi (Rome), Bavel (Babylonia), Yavan (Greece) and Madai (Media which was part of the Persian Empire). The Egyptian exile was the source of all four subsequent exiles, and is described as the period of “rabim”. The miraculous Exodus from Egypt did not merely free our ancestors from Egypt, it established the model of triumph which has accompanied our nation throughout the millennia. 
As we said before, the dreidel bears the Hebrew letters; gimmel, shin, nun and hey one its four sides. The gematria or numerology of the letters is 358 which is the same gematria as the word Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah).
This simple dreidel is not so simple after all. It send us a big message. Hashem is telling us that even though there are exiles, eventually they will come to an end and we will be redeemed as we were in Egypt. 
May we witness the coming of Mashiach bekarov - soon.
 
The fourth side of most dreidels is inscribed with the letter פ (Pei) instead of the letter ש (Shin), rendering the acronym, נס גדול היה פה‬, Nes Gadol Hayah Poh—"A great miracle happened here", referring to the miracle occurring in the Land of Israel.

Playing with Dreidels

To play the dredidel game each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10–15). The game pieces can be any object, such as coins, beads, raisins, etc.

To start the game, every participant puts one game piece into a central "pot". Every player also puts one game piece into the pot at the end of every player's turn.

Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, the player whose turn it is gives or takes game pieces from the pot:

-If נ‬ (nun) is facing up, the player does nothing.

-If ג‬ (gimel) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.

-If ה‬ (hei) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes the half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number.

-If ש‬ (shin) or פ‬ (pe) is facing up, the player adds one of their game pieces to the pot (sometimes accompanied by the chant "Shin, Shin, put one in"). In some game versions a Shin results in adding three game pieces to the pot (one for each stem of the Shin).

If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a "loan"

I have a little Dreidel - English words to the Dreidel song

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
And when it's dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

It has a lovely body, with legs so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!

My dreidel's always playful. It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreidel, come play now let's begin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let's begin.

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it's dry and ready, dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

 

More Hanukkah cheer 

The best Hanukkah jokes and one-liners

Tired of traditional potato latkes - try something different from our recipe selection

Hanukkah educational resources

Chag Hanukkah Sameach!