How to Play Dreidel

A simple game shows signifigance of Hebrew miracle

By Sarah James,

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters painted on each side. In places outside of Israel, the letters mean "A Great Miracle Happened There." In Israel, the letters mean, "A Great Miracle Happened Here."

The game of Dreidel was popular during the rule of Antiochus, before the Maccabees' revolt. Because Antiochus persecuted the Jews for practicing their religion, Jews would gather in secret to study the Torah and pray. If soldiers were nearby, the Jews would hide their scrolls and pretend to be playing Dreidel.

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How to play Dreidel

  • To play, each player receives an equal number (usually 10-15) of candy or coins to be used as game pieces.
  • At the beginning of each round, each player must deposit one game piece into the center "pot."
  • The players then spin the dreidel once per turn and, depending on which letters are facing up when it stops spinning, one of four events takes place:

    • Nun: the player does nothing
    • Gimel: the player gets everything in the pot
    • Hey: the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number)
    • Peh or Shin: the player adds a game piece to the pot
  • If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a "loan."
  • The game continues until all of the players have lost their pieces, or all decided to stop.

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