I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
With dreidel I shall play!
The dreidel is a four sided top, with a single Hebrew letter on each of its sides. Before the game begins, all players are given an equal number of coins or candies. Each player makes an initial deposit of coins or candies to the middle of the circle and then takes a turn spinning the dreidel. When it falls, depending on which Hebrew letter is facing up, the following occurs:
Nun: Nothing happens, on to the next player.
Gimmel: The player wins the pot.
Hey: The player takes half the pot.
Shin: The player must put a coin/candy in the pot.
Gambling?! On a Jewish holiday?
When the Syrian-Greeks ruled Judea (c. 167 B.C.E.), they banned the study of Torah. The Jewish people defiantly continued to study and to teach their children. Under the threat of death, the children and their teachers met in secret, with a lookout to watch for soldiers. When the enemy approached, the books were quickly hidden and the Jews pretended to be gambling.
The letters on the Chanukah dreidel spell out Nayse Gadol Hayah Sham, A Great Miracle Happened There (referring to Israel). In Israel, therefore, dreidels have a Pey instead of a Shin, representing the word Poh, which means Here, since the miracle actually occurred in the land of Israel.
So go ahead, gather a few friends, spend a few pennies and spin the dreidel without any guilt.
This Treat is posted each year in honor of Chanukah.
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