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The Origin of Dreidel

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A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top usually played during the holiday of Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew symbol which forms the rules of the game. Children would usually play dreidel in exchange for a pot of chocolate gelt covered in gold or silver foil or candies and other sweet treats.

Also known as sevivon, the dreidel is one of the most famous customs connected with the celebration of Hanukkah. The letters found on each side of the dreidel: Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin form an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham which means, “A great miracle happened there.” In Israel, the fourth side of the dreidel is inscribed with the Hebrew letter Pei which contributes to the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Po. (A great miracle happened here.)

According to a 19th century Rabbi, ancient Jews played the dreidel to fool the Greeks when they were studying Torah which was one of the prohibitions of the Greek King Antiochus. Some people also believe that the four letters in the dreidel represent the four kingdoms which attempted to destroy the Jewish community: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The Dreidel is one of the best known symbols of Hanukkah. It is a significant part of Jewish history, the story of the Jewish people, and we play the dreidel during Hanukkah to honor our heritage.

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