The Dreidel Game

Hanukkah DreidelThe Dreidel Game is also said to be derived from an old English game called 'teetotum' which also involved a four sided top with letters on each side.

In Yiddish, the letter Nun is pronounced 'nisht' meaning nothing; the letter Gimmel is called 'gantz' meaning all or everything; Hey is 'halb' or half (of everything); and Shin is 'shtel' or "put in" (to the pot). Remember, that if played in Israel, the shin becomes peh which literally means 'pay'.

To play a game of Dreidel, four players each put a coin or other item into a central pot, like in a card game, etc. The players then take turns spinning the Dreidel, each one's fate being decided when the Dreidel 'falls' on it's side. At the end of each game round, each player adds one item to the pot. If the spinner has the letter Gimmel, he takes what is in the pot and leaves one coin or token to keep the game going. At the end of the game, the one with the most of the pot wins. Each player starts the Dreidel game with an equal number of coins or tokens, usually 10 to 15.

Hanukkah DreidelThe Dreidel also has meanings connected to the Kabbalah, that Jewish spiritualistic study of the forces which influence and control Man's destiny. In Kabbalistic terms, the nun symbolizes 'Nefesh' or the soul; the Gimmel symbolizes the 'Guf' or physical body; the shin symbolizes 'Sechel' or intelligence; and the hey symbolizes 'Hakol' or everything. Students of Kabbalah also play the Dreidel game all year round, and how the Dreidel 'falls' determines one's ultimate fate. Therefore, the Dreidel's fall symbolizes periods when a person is influenced more by the spiritual, the physical, the influence of intelligence or reason; and when all internal and external forces are involved.

Thus, there may be more to playing a game of Dreidel than just winning 'Hanukkah Gelt'.