The Hanukkah Dreidel

Hanukkah DreidelThe Dreidel, or Sevivon in Hebrew, is a four sided top with each side containing a Hebrew letter.

Outside of Israel, the four letters are Nun, meaning Nes or miracle; Gimmel, meaning Gadol or great; Hey, meaning Haya or was (happened); and Shin, meaning Shom or there.

In Israel, the letter Shin has been replaced with the letter Peh, meaning Poh or here. This change was made to signify that the Hanukah miracle happened in the Land of Israel.

Put together, the letters say Nes Gadol Haya Sham or Poh, depending on where Jews are living. In English: "A great miracle happened there" (or here.)

Hanukkah DreidelThe origins of the Dreidel are said to go back all the way to the time when the Greeks occupied Israel and forbade Jews to formerly study their religion. Many people studied in secret, often at great risk to their lives. They used the Dreidel to convey meanings to their plight, and also to not bring attention to themselves, alleging that the "Dreidel Game" they were playing was a form of gambling.

The modern aspects of the Dreidel received its origins in European countries, where Yiddish, that mixture of German dialects and Hebrew, became a universal "Jewish language" all over the European Diaspora. Using a German gambling game involving a spinning top, Jewish people adapted it with their own characters, and special meanings.

The Dreidel Game