Many people collect all sort of things without questioning why. The instinct to collect is rooted in the evolution of mankind. In primeval times, hunting and gathering were essential to provide for and ensure the survival of one’s own clan. This is no longer the case today. Nevertheless, collections continue worldwide. Various motivations underline this phenomenon:
The passion for collecting serves personal entertainment and a meaningful pastime. It has a stress-reducing and relaxing effect as it offers an escape from every-day life. There are countless serious collectors who, over along period of time, have acquired knowledge in their fields an d thus constantly have improved their individual education. The fact that many collections, which have been assembled over the years, represent considerable investments and often form the basis of museums should also not be underestimated.
A Dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that Jewish children play with during the eight-day Festival of Lights, Hanukkah. Each side of the spinning top shows a Hebrew letter.
נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Schin). Instead of the letter Schin you also find a פ (Pe) in Israel.
Symbolism of the Dreidel
These letters form the acronym for the following sentences:
Nes gadol haja scham (in the diaspora) –
נסגדולהיהשם – “A great miracle happened there“,
or for Nes gadol haja po (in Israel) – נסגדולהיהפה – “A great miracle happened here.“
Origin of the Dreidel
According to legend, during the reign of Seleucid in Israel in the 2nd century BC, the Jews have been forbidden to teach and learn the Torah, the five books of Moses. Practising the Jewish faith was punishable by imprisonment and death. Despite the ban, the Jews encouraged their children to study religious traditions. When enemy patrols appeared, the children fooled the occupiers with a game of Dreidels. Originally, there was probably no connection between the Dreidel, Hanukkah and Judaism.
Although the historical roots of the Dreidel have not been conclusively clarified until today, it has been proven, that a small spinning top made its way to Germany via England and Ireland in the 16th century. The letters on this spinning top, called Teetotum, were the Latin first letters of the following words: nothing, half, everything and put in. In Germany, the Teeto-tum was renamed Trendel. When Yiddish speaking Jews, living in Germany, took over the spinning top game, the Latin let-ters were transliterated into Hebrew, since Yiddish script is rendered in Hebrew letters.
Etymology- word origin
The word Dreidel comes from the Yiddish word, dreyen – ד י ריע ן “, which corresponds to the English word to turn.
The Dreidel Game
The game that according to legend children used to play with the Dreidel is still played today at Hanukkah. The players place the same bet, e.g. chocolate money, raisins, nuts, etc. and turn the Dreidel one after the other. The side facing up indicates the win:
Nun = (Yiddish ני ש ט nisht, ‚nothing‘) – You don’t win anything, but you don’t lose anything either.
ג Gimel = (Yiddish ג נַ אץ gants, ‚everything‘) – You win the entire contents of the till, after that each player has to put a piece back into the pot.
ה He = (Yiddish הלַאב halb, ‚half‘) – You win half of the pot (rounded up). Sometimes it is requested, that if only one piece remains, everyone will have to add one.
ש Schin = (Yiddis ןh שעטל אײ shtel ayn, ‚put in‘) – You have to put a piece in the till. If you can’t put anything more in the pot, you are out of the game.
Why collect Dreidels?
As a collector with a connection to Judaism and Israel, it is obvious to be enthusiastic about Judaica. These are artistic, cer-emonial objects, e.g. candlesticks, Torah pointers, spice boxes, Dreidels, etc., which have served ritual purposes in Judaism for many centuries. There are various reasons for choosing the Dreidel out of the variety of Judaica as a collector’s item. From a profane point of view, the Dreidel is handy and small, so that a space saving collection is possible, when space is limited. Furthermore, Dreidels are affordable for many collectors, even in more noble versions, due to their small size com-pared to other Judaica.
Considering a religious, philosophical aspect, it is significant, that the Dreidel as a toy gives children direct access to the Jewish religion. Hence, in every religious community children guarantee for the continued existence of the religious cus-toms and traditions. The Dreidel ensures that the children are introduced to their Jewish history and culture at an early stage. In this way the game of Dreidels at Hanukkah contributes to transmission and survival of Jewish traditions.
There are Dreidel made of glass, porcelain, wood, plastic, bone, gold, silver and many other materials. The collection ex-clusively consists of silver Dreidels. This is based on several reasons. Silver has been the classic material of craftsmen pro-ducing Judaica for centuries. Dreidel and the nine-armed candlestick are symbolic of Hanukkah. For this reason the spinning top should be valued accordingly. Ever since the small spinning top was associated with the Festival of Lights, the Dreidel has stood for liberation from oppression and the victory of Judaism over cultural assimilation until this day. The use of silver in the manufacture of Jewish spinning tops gives the Dreidel an adequate appreciation.
In this sense:
Lamir veyter dreyen dem Dreydl
– לאמ יר ווייטער דר ייע ן דעם דר ייד ל-
Let’s go on spinning the Dreidel!
– חונכה שמח-