Dreidel (s’vivon)

The Dreidel is an easily recognized symbol of the Jewish holiday Chanukkah. The dreidel (the word dreidel is a corruption of the German word for ‘top’) is a four sided spinning top inscribed with Hebrew characters, adapted from an old German gambling game. As rules prohibiting gambling games were traditionally relaxed during the holiday, the dreidel became inseparably associated with Chanukah.

Over time, the dreidel began to be seen as a means of teaching the meaning of the holiday: the letters are used form an acronym: (nun, gimel, heh, shin), which stands for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” A great miracle happened there, referring to the miracle of the oil (The exception being dreidels used in Israel, which read: “,” for: “A great miracle happened here.” )

The dreidel is a traditional gift at Channukah, and used to gamble for candy, raisins, or coins (chocolate ‘gelt’ coins are popular). Players ante into a pot, and take turns spinning the dreidel:

Nun, (nisht, nothing): player gets nothing

Gimel (gantz, all): player takes

Heh, (halb, half): player takes half the pot.

Shin, (shtel, give): players ante into the pot.

Related Symbols:

Tree of life

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