During the rule of Antiochus, Jews played a diversion similar to the modern dreidel game.
If they were secretly studying their holy books and a soldier came along, they would quickly pretend to be playing with the top.
The dreidel game is part of the celebration of Hanukkah.
The eyes of children on two dreidel teams at Temple of Israel’s religious school intently watch the whirring top, waiting to see where it will fall. Each has a stake in the game, plinking down a paper clip, as a sort of fun wager. Sometimes the bets are with chocolate chips, nuts, raisins or pennies.
If the dreidel falls on the side with the Hebrew letter Gimmel carved in it, the spinner gets all the clips. If it lands on Nun, well that means zip. If on Hey, the spinner gets half. And if on Shin, the player has to add a piece to the pot.
Temple leader Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky talked about the meaning of the words on the dreidel: “Nes Kadol Haya Sham which means a great miracle happened there referring to the miracle that happened in Israel over 2,000 years ago when a small army the Maccabees was able to defeat a much larger army to win their religious freedom back.”
But the rabbi said the intent remains the same: to connect the children with their Jewish history and remind them that Hanukkah is about a miracle that happened when a tiny vial of oil lit a sacred temple in Jerusalem for eight nights instead of just one.
Amanda Green is Editor and Community Manager of WilmingtonFAVS.com.