With just a few days left of the Hanukkah week, its high time to get the dreidel rolling. The rules
are simple, and the game lasts as long as the chips keep flying.
I can hear you asking: Wait, but isn’t dreidel a religious game? I don’t want to offend anybody.
Well, that’s not exactly true. True, dreidels mostly make the rounds during Hanukkah, but the
game did not originate within Jewish culture.
Starting out, dreidel was actually an English game called teetotum. The spinning top was the
same shape with the same rules with slightly different symbols, Latin instead of Hebrew. Just
like with dreidel, the four symbols mean “nothing,” “half,” “everything,” and “put in.”
What you need:
1. A dreidel.
2. Poker chips (or other small objects).
3. Awesome friends.
1. Several awesome friends gather at a table and set out their chips. About 10-15 chips per player
makes for the best game length.
2. To start each round, each player places a chip in the pot.
3. One by one, every player spins the dreidel.
נ (nun): Do nothing.
ג (gimel): Take everything in the pot.
ה (hay): Take half of the pot, rounded up if there is an odd number.
ש (shin): Place one chip in the pot, saying “shin, shin, put one in.”
At the very end of their turn, the player places a chip in the pot no matter what happened before.
4. When a player runs out of chips, they may ask another player for more.
5. The group continues to play until one player owns all the chips.
Optional rule: When rolling “shin,” place three chips in the pot instead of one.
More on dreidel:
There are more than a few theories about the true meaning of the dreidel and what it was used
for. The possibilities are real. The dreidel may have been used to preserve the last vestiges of
Jewish belief, just in case the worst happened. Here is how.
1. The four symbols on the dreidel together are “nun gimel hay shin,” an abbreviation for “nes
gadol haya sham,” meaning “A great miracle happened there.” In Israel, one of the letters is
switched out to mean “A great miracle happened here.”
2. By analyzing the letters on the dreidel numerologically, the term “mashiach,” meaning
“messiah,” can be drawn out. In fact, the dreidel may be used to communicate in code as each
Hebrew letter has a numerological equivalent.
Is there a deeper meaning behind the dreidel? Who’s to say, but you know what’s more fun than
pondering the truth behind an unknowable question? Playing dreidel.