Learning to spin the dreidel

A child plays with some dreidels.

A dreidel (Yiddish: דרײדל dreydl, Hebrew: סביבוןSevivon) is a four-sided spinning top, played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The dreidel is used for a form of the gambling game Teetotum (T-Totum). Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham – "a great miracle happened there"). These letters also form a mnemonic for the rules of a gambling game played with a dreidel: Nun stands for the Yiddish word nite ("nothing"), Hei stands for halb ("half"), Gimel for gants ("all"), and Shin for shteln ("put"). In Israel, the fourth side of most dreidels are inscribed with the letter פ (Pei), rendering the acronym, נס גדול היה פה, Nes Gadol Haya Po—"A great miracle happened here" referring to the miracle occurring in the land of Israel. Some stores in Haredi neighbourhoods may sell the traditional ש dreidels.

Some Jewish commentators ascribe symbolic significance to the markings on the dreidel. One commentary, for example, connects the four letters with the four exiles to which the nation of Israel was historically subject—Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.[1]

The Yiddish word "dreydl" comes from the word "dreyen" ("to turn"). The Hebrew word "sevivon" comes also from the root "SBB" ("to turn") and was invented by Itamar Ben-Avi (the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda) when he was 5 years old. Hayyim Nahman Bialik used a different word, "kirkar" (from the root "KRKR" - "to spin"), in his poems[2], but it was not adopted into spoken Hebrew.

While not being mandated (mitzvah) for Hanukkah (the only mandated mitzvot are lighting candles and saying the full hallel), the Dreidel is a customary game played during the holiday and has become one of the symbols associated with Hanukkah.


Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10-15). The game pieces can be any object, such as pennies, raisins, or chocolate coins.

  • At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center "pot". In addition, every time the pot is empty and sometimes if it has one game piece left, every player puts one in the pot.
  • Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot:
    • a) If nun is facing up, the player does nothing.
    • b) If gimel is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
    • c) If hey is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there is an odd number, they get half of the total plus one)
    • d) If shin (or pei) is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.
  • If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a "loan".[3]

Dreidel is now a competitive sport being played in North America. Major League Dreidel (MLD), founded in New York City in 2007, hosts dreidel tournaments during the holiday of Hanukkah. In MLD tournaments the player with the longest Time of Spin (TOS) is the winner. MLD is played on a Spinagogue, the official spinning stadium of Major League Dreidel. Pamskee is the 2007 MLD Champion. Virtual Dreidel is the 2008 MLD Champion [4]. In 2009, Major League Dreidel launched a game version of the Spinagogue and MLD tournaments and original games are now being played around the country during Hanukkah[5].

See also


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Dreidel. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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