A dreidel is a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side.
Outside of the Land of Israel, the letters are:
Nun – נ Gimel – ג Hay – ה Shin – ש
When the letters are put together, they stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham or ‘A Miracle Happened There.’
Within the Land of Israel, the letters are: Nun – נ Gimel – ג Hay – ה Peh – פ. When these letters are put together, they stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Peh or ‘A Miracle Happened Here.’
The ‘here or there’ refers to the miracles surrounding Hanukkah that occurred in Jerusalem about 165 BCE. When the Greek armies came into Jerusalem and took control of the Temple, they desecrated the Altar by sacrificing a pig and pouring out its blood and erected a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies. The first miracle is the victory of the Jewish people over the Greek armies and regaining control of the Temple to re-dedicate it back to God.
The second miracle about the holy Menorah and the oil is one that has grown over the centuries. When the priests restored the Temple, there was only one sealed jar of consecrated oil for the Menorah. It would take eight days to consecrate more oil. Miraculously, the one jar lasted the entire eight days.
The third and greatest miracle of Hanukkah is Yeshua who stood in Solomon’s Colonnade as the true Menorah of the Temple (John 8:12).
The fourth miracle is that the nation of Israel survived the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. If anyone was found the reading Torah, they and their families would be put to death. According to tradition, when the soldiers came to a home and the family was reading Torah, they would hide their scrolls, pull out their tops and begin playing a gambling with a dreidel.
The Game of Dreidel
- Each player begins with 10 pennies, MnMs, buttons, toothpicks or gelt. Gelt means ‘money’ and is chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.
2. Each person puts one of their gelt into the center ‘pot.’
3. One person goes first by spinning their dreidel. The letter that falls face up determines what the player will do.
Nun – נ – The player does nothing, takes nothing.
Gimel – ג – The player takes all the coins, candy, items in the ‘pot.’
Hey – ה – The player takes half of the coins, candy, items in the ‘pot.’
Shin – ש – The player puts another coin, candy, item in the ‘pot.’
Two and three are repeated again with the next person spinning their dreidel.
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