The Ancient Art of Driedel Playing


The Ancient Art of Driedel Playing

The Ancient Art of Driedel Playing

The Ancient Art of Driedel Playing


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Opinion & Society

A light look at the ancient sport by Israel's Olympic dreidel champion

by Uzi Lampoon

Historic Background

The ancient art of playing dreidel has existed for a few thousand years. Tradition tells us that the playing of the driedel originated even before the revolt against the Greeks. The Greeks forbade the Jews from studying Torah. The Rabbis took their students "underground" and posted two or three students outside to watch. When the Greek soldiers came to see if Torah was been taught, they would see children playing outside with the driedel. Seeing the children playing and not learning, the Greek soldiers would go away content that Torah was not being studied. In this way the tradition of studying Torah was preserved, and thus started the tradition of playing the driedel at Chanukah.

Other supposed historians explain the playing of the driedel in another manner. Since parents customarily give their children "Chanukah Gelt" (money) during Chanukah , the parents now have a chance of winning it back. It must be said that this historical view is the minority opinion of those children whose parents unscrupulously took advantage of them.

How to Play:

The rules of playing this game are relatively simple. After lighting the Chanukah candles, (and waiting for the latkes) you must empty out all of the small change that you have in your pocket. Give a large amount to your children. (Small change is used, since men who have children generally lose the big change to the better half). After distributing the change among the participants, you are ready to begin to play the game.

To start the game, each player puts one coin in the pot located on the table (unless you are playing on the floor) The person that has the loudest voice or has already grabbed the driedel begins to spin the driedel. (For details, on driedel spinning, check out a few choice books from your local public library, under the topic: spinning, driedel, artifacts, Judaica}. The driedel has four Hebrew letters embellished on the side. When the driedel, stops spinning and falls, the letter facing up indicates the fate of the spinner as noted below in the table.
The Jewish Magazine -  Your monthly link to your soul
The Jewish Magazine -  Your monthly link to your soul
The Jewish Magazine -  Your monthly link to your soul
The Jewish Magazine -  Your monthly link to your soul

Letter Meaning of the Hebrew letter The letters stand for:
"noon"-nothing, you neither put or take, you simply lose your turn "ness"
"gimel" - get, you get all the money that has accumulated in the pot. "gadol"
"hey" - half, you get to take half of all the money that is in the pot. "hiyah"
"shin" - sorry, you must put a coin into the pot. "shaam"

The meaning of the letters is that "a big miracle happened there." "There" means is Israel. We say there because we are here outside of Israel. But in Israel the letter "shin" is replaced with the "pey", because in Israel they said that "a big miracle happened here." "Here" in Hebrew is the word "po", which starts with a "pey". In either case, whether you are here or there, you must put a coin in the pot!

Okay, now you are all ready for Chanukah ! Get out the money, get down on the floor and PLAY!


from the December 1997 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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