Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

A Guide to 'JOES Boxes'
'Jewish Objects for Education in Scotland'

 

Chanukah: Dreidel

Chanukah: Chanukiah

A dreidel is a spinning top that is used in a game traditionally played at Chanukah. When it was forbidden to practice Judaism the Maccabees studied Torah in secret, but if anyone saw them they would pretend to be playing with dreidels. We remember the persecution they suffered by playing dreidel today.

On each of the 4 sides of the dreidel there is a Hebrew letter:

Nun

נ

Gimmel

   (looks similar to nun but with a tail) ג

Hay

ה

Shin

ש

standing for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham” which means “a great miracle happened there’. In Israel, dreidels have one letter different to create the phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Po” – a great miracle happened here – as the Temple was in Jerusalem in Israel.

The dreidel is used to play a game of luck, where small items (sultanas, chocolate coins, etc) are won and lost: each player starts the game with a small pile of items, and there is a larger pile in the middle. Each player takes turns to spin the dreidel and carry out an action: landing on Gimmel means you take everything that is in the middle, landing on Nun means nothing happens, landing on Shin requires you to put in half of your portion, and Hay means you take half of the middle portion. While there are many variations to the rules, these are one of the simplest options. The player who ends up with all the items wins! (Beware, this can take a long time!)

 

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