Spinning the Dreidel


Dear Rabbi,
What is a “dreidel” and its connection to Chanukah?



  1. A traditional pastime on Chanukah is playing with a “dreidel”, a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, heh and shin begin the words in the Hebrew sentence “A great miracle happened there.” (In Israel, the letter peh is inscribed instead of a shin to correspond to the sentence “A great miracle happened here.”) Children play a game in which candies or coins are won or lost depending upon which letter is up after the dreidel has stopped spinning and falls.

    Playing dreidel is more than just a bit of holiday fun, however. It teaches us a profound lesson about Jewish history. It symbolizes the four major exiles that the Jews have experienced: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Just like a spinning dreidel, each of these empires has its “moment in the sun” but will eventually fall. In history, as with the dreidel, only two things remain constant – the point on which it revolves and the handle above. The point around which the dreidel revolves symbolizes the eternal Jewish people, while the “hand” from above which spins the dreidel of history is the Divine Providence of God.
    Happy Chanukah!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team