Haz Girar un Dreidel: Tradition and Meaning of a Jewish Game

The dreidel is a small four-sided spinning top that holds a special place in Jewish tradition, particularly during the holiday of Hanukkah. With the phrase haz girar un dreidel, we delve into a rich history and a tradition passed down through generations. This article explores the origin, rules, and cultural significance of the dreidel, as well as its role in the Hanukkah celebration.


Origins of the Haz Girar un Dreidel

History of the Dreidel

The dreidel, known in Hebrew as “sevivon,” is a traditional toy used during Hanukkah. The word “dreidel” comes from Yiddish and means “to spin.” The phrase haz girar un dreidel encapsulates an activity that has deep roots in Jewish history.

The dreidel originated during the time of Greek rule over Israel when Jews were prohibited from studying the Torah. According to tradition, Jewish children used the dreidel to disguise their Torah study. When Greek soldiers approached, the children would hide their books and start playing with the dreidel to avoid being discovered.

Evolution of the Dreidel

Over time, the dreidel became a symbol of Jewish resistance and cultural survival. The phrase haz girar un dreidel represents not just a game, but also the perseverance and creativity of the Jewish people in the face of oppression.

How to Play with a Dreidel

Game Preparations

To play with a dreidel, you need a few basic items: a dreidel, which has four faces with the Hebrew letters Nun (נ), Gimel (ג), Hei (ה), and Shin (ש), and a number of tokens or coins, often represented by “gelt” (chocolate coins).

Game Rules

The game starts with each player receiving an equal amount of tokens. In the center of the table, there is a “pot” where everyone contributes one token. Then, players take turns spinning the dreidel. The face on which the dreidel lands determines the action the player must take:

  • Nun (נ): Nothing happens. The player neither wins nor loses tokens.
  • Gimel (ג): The player takes all the tokens in the pot.
  • Hei (ה): The player takes half of the tokens in the pot.
  • Shin (ש): The player must add one token to the pot.

The game continues until one player runs out of tokens, or until the players decide to end the game.

Strategies and Tips

While dreidel is mostly a game of chance, there are some strategies and tips that can enhance the experience:

  1. Practice spinning technique: A good spin can make the dreidel spin longer and add excitement to the game.
  2. Play on a flat surface: Ensure the surface where you spin the dreidel is flat and smooth for better results.
  3. Know the rules: Make sure all players know and agree on the rules before starting.

Cultural Significance of the Haz Girar un Dreidel

Symbolism of the Letters

Each letter on the dreidel has a special meaning. Together, the letters Nun, Gimel, Hei, and Shin form an acronym in Hebrew that means “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” (“A great miracle happened there”), referring to the miracle of Hanukkah in the Temple of Jerusalem. In Israel, the dreidel has a different letter, replacing Shin with Pe (פ) to form “Nes Gadol Haya Po” (“A great miracle happened here”).

Dreidel and Hanukkah

The phrase haz girar un dreidel is especially resonant during Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days in the Temple of Jerusalem. The dreidel is an integral part of Hanukkah celebrations, and spinning it is a way to remember and celebrate this miracle.

Dreidel in Popular Culture

The dreidel has transcended religious boundaries and become a cultural symbol. Songs like “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” have popularized the game outside the Jewish community, and haz girar un dreidel has become a familiar phrase even for those who do not celebrate Hanukkah.

Haz Girar un Dreidel: A Family Activity

The Dreidel as an Educational Tool

The dreidel is not just a fun game but also an educational tool. It teaches children about the history of Hanukkah and the values of perseverance and faith. Additionally, the dreidel game helps children develop motor skills and basic math abilities.

Creating Family Traditions

By spinning a dreidel together, families can create and strengthen traditions that last for generations. The phrase haz girar un dreidel can become a call for family unity and the celebration of cultural identity.

Dreidel in the Home

In many Jewish households, dreidels are collected and displayed as decorations during Hanukkah. They are made from various materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and even glass. Some dreidels are true works of art, adorned with intricate designs and vibrant colors.

Haz girar un dreidel is more than a simple invitation to play; it is a gateway to a rich cultural and religious tradition. The dreidel symbolizes the resilience and creativity of the Jewish people and offers a playful way to remember and celebrate the history of Hanukkah. By spinning a dreidel, we participate in an ancient tradition that connects the past with the present and future.

The next time you hear the phrase haz girar un dreidel, remember that you are partaking in something much larger than a mere game. You are celebrating a history of miracles, resistance, and faith that has endured through the ages.